Friday, May 23, 2014

Swans-To Be Kind

Young God, Mute

In 1982 multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira (formerly of New York post-punk act Circus Mort) put together the innovative Swans. Three years later Ted Parson joined the group as their drummer. Then in 1987, after a few years spent recording and performing with Gira's experimental rock project, Ted Parson went off and joined Tommy Victor's Prong*. Sometime after that (my best bet would be 1989 or 1990) I happened upon a write-up on Prong (in some long-defunct metal fanzine) where, in the long-awaited wraparound piece where we get to the root of this intro, mention was made of the fact that Ted Parson used to play in New York's Swans. My curiously getting the better of me (a all-too-common problem during my teen years that resulted in one misadventure after another!) I sent away from some Swan material (I want to say it was the group's 1984 EP, "Young God", which, ironically enough, didn't include Ted Parsons!) and from that moment on I had a soft spot in my heart for the band's (then harsh!) take on post-punk. Over time I've picked up odds and ends material from the group** although I can honestly say that I haven't paid much attention to what the group has been up to the last 5-10 years. Now I come to find out that the group is on their 13th studio album(!) with the self-produced "To Be Kind" and it is a dozy! Available as a double CD or a 3LP set (how cool is that!!!!), "Too Be Kind" finds 2014-ear Swans in prime form! Long ago abandoning the harsher side of their sound, today's version of Michael Gira's Swans (or should we call it today's vision of Swans?) focuses on memorizing passages, experimental rock movements and subtle nuances to achieve a broader vision. Over two hours in length, "To Be Kind" is nothing short of an adventure with artificial sounds mingling with strings, brass and "traditional" rock/post-rock instrumentation. There's primitive blues rock notations stacked side-by-side with the band's synth-heavy early work (pointing towards Swans post-Kraftwerk inspirations) and within this man-made masterpiece of experiment rock and roll one can't help but notice how Gira simply is not afraid to take the group's music wherever it happens to please him. That is an admirable quality to have, but unlike far-too-many experimental rock albums (where the message is lost somewhere along the way and said ambitions end up being washed away thanks to an out of control picture of what works well in theory but not necessarily in practice!) a double album like "To Be Kind" actually works as both a statement and a soundtrack! This one isn't just experimental, expanded far beyond the reach and normal expectations of post-rock, it's enjoyable as Gira is a master at creating music with heartfelt sentimentalization. For Swans fans Gira has been building towards a release such as this one, but for those who might be dropping by unexpectedly "To Be Kind" might be a surprise, a real awakening to the awe-struck capability of this long-running New York post rock project. For someone like me, having been exposed prior to "To Be Kind" to both sides of this coin that is the Swans,  expectations that it would be good were squashed early on by the reality that we might just be looking at one of the greatest musical acts to EVER come out of New York! In fact I actually found myself wondering if a band like Swans isn't the real face of modern day rock and roll, illuminating not only New York night sky, but far beyond our boarders and out into the world. What other (currently-active) rock band compares? U2? Not even close. Coldplay? You've got to be joking! No one can touch the brilliance of this act or "To Be Kind", one of 2014's BEST releases! There are a millions reasons for "To Be Kind" to be on everyone's lips, but are we beyond that point as a society thanks to the pure dredge that is broadcast on the airwaves? One has to wonder. You and I though can make a difference. "To Be Kind" is an appropriate title. To be kind to today's generation and save them from themselves we must give the gift that keeps on giving-good music. Purge society of generic pop and silly crap that is passed off as "rock". Take down corporate radio and replace it with a real message of hope. Has today's generation been brainwashed past the point of no return? Only we have the power to find out. So pick up "To Be Kind" and join the fight to save rock music from those who would corrupt it, maybe even destroy it for greed and huge profits.

*Prong also has a new album out for 2014 which I hope to review within the next day or two.

**At one point I had lots of Swans on cassette (both "official" and tapped) as well as on CD (same deal!). If now pressed though I would be in trouble if I had to find it. Somewhere between moving from our old apartment to our first house and then (post-divorce and forced to downsize) moving from our house to my current location I misplaced a ton of music. It's likely still here somewhere, but considering the size of our new place (and by "our" I mean the kids and I) I can't be sure where I put it all!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found out that my old blog was still hanging around the internet, so I'm visiting everyone on my old blog roll and saying hi. Glad to see that you are still around!

My new Url is:

BTW: I freaking love this album. The Swans are mind blowing.

5:41 PM  

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