Swans | The Great Annihilator | ReviewNo Wave Revisited Band of Susans: Wired for Sound (Blast First) Sonic Youth: Confusion if Sex/Kill Yr Idols (Blast First) Swans: The Great Annihilator (Young God)
A year ago you could have been forgiven for thinking that No Wave was dead. Leading protagonists of the discordant post-punk revolution of the early '80's were either acquiescent (Swans, Band of Susans), rocking out (Rollins, Sonic Youth) or in danger reaching a creative dead-end (Butthole Surfers). Grunge, Riot Grrl, the mutation of 'alternative' music into easy listening indie pop and the seemingly infinite worlds of fusion indicated a shift away from the derelict industrial traumas of the 1980's, right? Wrong, with the release of these three albums (a release a retrospective and a new album), No Wave drags itself tortured and screaming into 1995. This is New York rawk 'n' roll at its finest, harshest and most inventive and relentless. Sonic Youth have been around since the dawn of time (or so it seems), echoing distortion through urban canyons.
Confusion is Sex and Kill Yr Idols have been unavailable for years, missing links in the evolutionary chain that led to the seminal Evol and Sister. Production is raw, both albums possess that beautiful almost unlistenable quality that made Sonic Youth as dangerous as forbidden fruit. From snarling punk ("Inhuman" an excellent cover "I Wanna Be Your Dog") to almost hip-hop ("Making The Nature Scene"), to the brooding "Brother James," this is vintage Sonic Youth.
The Band of Susans retrospective is awesome. Split into "songs with words" and "songs without words," its a relentless barrage of triple-guitar overdrive. Band of Susans create brutal minimalist mantras, linear soundscapes reliant not only on notes played but also on unexpected dissonant vibrations born out of the whole. Walls of noise have rarely sounded so exhilarating. The instrumentals are perhaps most intriguing, where textual shifts and colliding riffs are at their most raw and exposed ("Guitar Trio" and "Elliott Abrams in Hells" are excellent). Expect an album of new material soon.
In the realms of brutality and noise there are few bands who can compare with Swans. From their first stomach-churning rumblings on Filth (1983), Swans produced some of the most frightening claustrophobic music of the 1980's.
"The Great Annihilator" is their first studio album in three years. They sound less ugly but listening to them is still like being battered with a sledgehammer, just more beautifully. This is S & M for the ears and mind. "Where Does A Body End?," for instance, with its slow, luscious sound: "Your naked body's buried in a vacant field/What does your body feel now?"
"A detailed instruction manual for the total destruction of the real world," says the adverts, and I believe them. No Wave has come back to taunt us.