Swans | Die TÃ¼r Ist Zu, Real Love, Kill the Child | ReviewsSwans are a great band for impatient listeners who don't like waiting more than a year for new material Swans are a great band for impatient listeners who don't like waiting more than a year for new material, as main members Michael Gira and Jarboe dutifully fill gaps between studio albums with live records and side projects. Since their 1995 studio masterwork, The Great Annihilator, Gira and Jarboe have both released solo albums with Die TÃ¼r Ist Zu now providing the obligatory, and interestingly Eurocentric, concert document: "Hilflos Kind" and "Ich Sehe Die Alle In Einer Reihe" recast older Gira material ("Helpless Child" and "I See Them All Lined Up") into streamlined German-language settings; "M/F" is a rootsy acoustic rendition of Annihilator's "Mother/Father" recorded in Amsterdam; other songs were recorded live in Bremen and London.
Swans' bowel-wrenchingly strong material is brilliantly translated and arranged on Die TÃ¼r; the music is still relentless and the drones still make your diaphragm wobble, but there's a lot more ozone-laden air between the thunderclaps. The album peaks with Jarboe's vocals on "M/F" and "YRP"; she has adopted Gira's slow cathartic phrasing which, given her pronounced Mississippi accent, sounds positively red-clay-earth-motherly when she belts from the gut. Jarboe's artistic growth is particularly noteworthy given her weak early work with Swans, during the three-year (1984-1987) musical melee between their first stable lineup (Gira, drummer Roli Mossiman, bassist Harry Crosby, guitarist Norman Westberg) and the last semi-democratic version of the group before it became an exclusively Gira/Jarboe-oriented vehicle (Gira, Jarboe, Westberg, bassist Algis Kizys, drummer Ted Parsons).
Atavistic's two new CD releases ably document this crucial evolutionary period via clean(er) takes on sludgy bootleg quality material previously issued on the vinyl Public Castration is a Good Idea and Feel Good Now. Kill the Child features live material from Swans' 1985-87 European tours while Real Love focuses solely on Europe '86; the disks maintain completely different track listings, however, as Real Love parallels twin 1986 studio albums Greed and Holy Money while Kill the Child focuses on material from 1987's Children of God.
Psychic suffering unites these extremely powerful records, with "A Hanging" (from Real Love) earning the most hellworthy accolades: it invokes the pain-maddened damned as they trudge endlessly through chest-deep gullies of shit, calling for God's forgiveness, recognizing (finally, too late) that no one needs His mercy more than they do. Michael Gira clearly understood damnation when he wrote these songs—we can but hope (for his sake) that the act of expunging them has helped him find some modicum of the redemptive self-peace for which he wailed so effectively.
Copyright 1996 — J. Eric Smith