•••SIGNED BY M.GIRA•••
•ORIGINAL RELEASE DATES: 1984-1986• PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS AN IMPORT ITEM – NOT RELEASED BY YOUNG GOD RECORDS.
LABEL: SOME BIZARRE (UK)
THIS DOUBLE CD COLLECTION INCLUDES THE RELEASES COP, YOUNG GOD. GREED, AND HOLY MONEY.
IF YOU WANT HEAVY, BRUTAL, UNCOMPROMISING, VIOLENT, IMPENETRABLE, UNDENIABLE, PHYSICALLY, PSYCHICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY DEVASTATING, OBLITERATING LOVE LOVE LOVE-MUSIC – THIS IS FOR YOU!
THE TEMPLATE FOR COUNTLESS BANDS AND GENRES.
by Ned Raggett (AMG)
Consisting of a four-piece lineup -- Mosimann on drums, Westberg on guitar, Harry Crosby on bass, and naturally Gira on vocals -- on their second full album Swans add even more vicious crunch to their basic approach, resulting in quite possibly one of the darkest recordings ever done. Gira's words come across a little more forcefully and cleanly than before, and the existential horror shows that he details, almost always phrased in confessional/accusatory "I - you" terms, make up in sheer power what they lack in any kind of subtlety. For example, typical lyrics, from the snarling "Your Property" state: "I give you money -- you're superior. I don't exist. You control me." Matching his at-times unearthly moans and cries perfectly, the pounding music mostly consists of one slow, descending chord progression or a repetitive series of one or two notes after another, extending the power of loud feedback and amped drums to indescribably forceful effect. The opening grind alone on "Why Hide," as Westberg stretches out his strings behind Mosimann and Crosby's pummeling, is crushing enough before Gira delivers a harrowing vocal. The most legendary track from the album is the title cut; as a vicious anti-boys-in-blue rant finds its equal only in N.W.A.'s "Fuck Da Police." With such thoroughly bilious Gira lines as "Nobody rapes you like a cop in jail" providing the mental pictures, a slow, steady punch of music gets slowly but surely more aggressive and destructive as the song unfolds to its raging conclusion. Jim Thirlwell, aka Foetus, helps contribute to the apocalyptic noise on the release, but you somehow figure that Swans would have reached this state quite well on their own regardless. Ugly, compelling, and overpowering, Cop remains the pinnacle of Swans' brutal early days.
COP/YOUNG GOD EP
Formed in 1982, The Swans initially was connected with the nebulous 'no wave' moniker, but that association lasted for only one album, following the departure of their original guitarist. "Cop / Young God / Greed / Holy Money", released in 1999 (shortly after the band had disbanded), is a double LP featuring the albums "Cop", "Greed", "Holy Money", and the infamous "Young God" EP (which Kurt Cobain listed among his favorite albums). The studio recordings present Swans with their most unadulterated musical vision: agonizing auditory assaults, all recorded between 1984-1986. The guitar sounds as if it were being amplified through diesel exhaust pipes, the bass sounds as if it were strung with electrical wires, and the drums are accented with various metal 'found objects'. But one of the most unnerving aspects of The Swans' sound is Michael Gira's vocals. Alternating from a deadpan delivery (in which he issues matter-of-fact statements regarding death, dismemberment, sex, "humiliation as a disease", and other subversive conversation starters) to snarled shouting, he deftly explores the squalid underside of existence in a manner few bands are able to accomplish effectively.
While the "Young God" EP is stylistically similar to the "Cop" LP, there are a number of interesting differences between the two. Almost immediately noticeable is the fact that the songs, though similar to the previous album, are much more 'sinister' sounding than 'overtly brutal' (although it is important to note that there is no loss in intensity; in some respects, this album is a bit more intense). Also obvious is the fact that the band had, by this point, began to experiment with slightly more complex song progressions (such as the outro of "I Crawled"). Michael Gira's voice is also a little bit more diverse on these songs, with reverb and chorus effects appearing in the mix at times (this does, however, cause his voice to be somewhat further back in the mix). His ranting/screeching/shouting is especially pronounced on the song "Raping A Slave". And that loud clanking sound you hear every once in a while? That's a steel table and chain.
By Ned Raggett (AMG)
Featuring two bassists -- Crosby and newcomer Algis Kizys -- and no less than three drummers -- Gonzalez, Ted Parsons, and Ivan Nahem -- Greed marks the initial turning point of Swans towards more varied and ultimately even more astonishing musical heights than the early records, which were aggressive beyond all words, ever indicated. The opening track "Fool" demonstrates as much, being almost wholly piano-based, though the portentous echo of the notes along with grinding guitar noises underlying Gira's ever-more commanding, raspy singing (as opposed to shouting) mean that it's all still very much Swans. An increasing spaciousness and sense of more stripped-down arrangements also show up, along with some slightly more active tempos. "Anything for You" has Gira's strangled wail of earlier days, but the music is a little calmer, a little more restrained; "Stupid Child" uses a delicate playing of cymbals as effectively as the expected slow percussion rumbles. Lyrically, unsurprisingly, things are little different from before, with images of utter self-loathing, power, domination, and economic corrosion of the soul dominating Gira's words, though at times interesting new elements creep in as well. On "Heaven," for instance, Gira resignedly sings of a "heaven" which could be that of dying victims or of exhausted lovers, a fascinating double image. Jarboe makes her presence known on a number of songs, most effectively on the title track, where her wordless background vocals constantly loop in and out of the mix (notably, despite the title, Gira here sings of emotional isolation rather than the monetary greed expected given such other songs on the album as "Money Is Flesh," a slightly calmer semi-cousin to "Time Is Money (Bastard)").
by Ned Raggett (AMG)
Also recorded at the sessions for Greed and A Screw (the album actually contains the "Holy Money" mix of said single), Holy Money is logically similar in general tone and feel to those releases, mixing the established Swans blueprint of lyrical and musical extremity with an ever-broader range and, at times, a broader delicacy than before. "A Hanging" helps to showcase Jarboe's increasing role with the band. Her striking, semi-gospel wails mix with the storm-cloud-laden music, which builds into a massive tribal drum pattern, while Gira sings of self-sacrifice to what sounds like a very unforgiving deity. This immediately leads into the brief "You Need Me," where Jarboe's haunting voice sings a lyric of apology solely over echoed piano. Such unexpected twists crop up throughout Holy Money, as the band engages in a fruitful search for new musical directions. Greed's "Fool" is revisited as "Fool #2," transformed into an equally ominous track, but this time accompanied by almost majestic electric guitar and drums along with the original piano and keyboards. Gira's vocals are notably clearer in this piece, though the lyrics are hardly any less gentle. Another Greed track, "Money Is Flesh," gets its own drastic remake on the album as well. "Another You," meanwhile, has distinctly strange and beautiful -- in an alien way -- guitar scrapes and shades which provide texture to the lengthy track, with one of Gira's most obsessive interpersonal lyrics (and one of his best vocals up to that time) further gracing it. Ending with "Coward" -- contrasting almost intimate if still haunted upfront Gira's spoken vocals set against a buried series of his screams and shouts in the background of the mix over a repetitive crunch of guitar, bass, and drums -- Holy Money well documents the continuing transformation of Swans into a more complex, intriguing beast.