Swans are one of those bands you’re ‘expected’ to like when you’re in my line of journalism, and music appreciation. “You like SUNN O)), Fantomas, and Earth? You MUST like Swans then right?”.
In short, I like what I’ve heard. I’ve always meant to get really into Swans, but I’ve somehow always fallen short of actually taking the plunge.
It’s not like TOOL, Coil, or Radiohead, three bands people are often shocked to hear I don’t listen to. I don’t listen to them because I think they are either terrible, or have a crap singer. I really just haven’t had the opportunity to really dig into their discography, that is all.
So, when it popped up in my email box that they were playing, I decided this would be a good oppurtuity to get a good sample of their music.
The band open with, what can only be described as, an ‘annoying squeal’…for about 15 minutes. This put me straight into ‘post-rock-self-defence-mode’, and I wandered off to get a drink. When I returned, the squeal was suddenly accompanied by a man playing what looked like a lap-steel guitar with an array of effects pedals, which was quite therapeutic after the lingering squeal.
Finally the band all get on stage, and we’re treated to a very slow, but pleasing, build up of darkness. The song peaked into an amazing crescendo of discordance, and then stops suddenly. So far, so good.
Judging by the audience reactions, the following (very good) tunes are all ‘classics’. Swans seem to specialise in root darkness. By this I mean, over the years they have perfected the sound of bleakness, it’s quite impressive.
The show itself is good, but I have one complaint. The root darkness I mentioned before, gets a bit tired. To me at least – a non-Swans-obsessive-heathen – a lot of the material they are playing tonight sounds very ‘rinse and repeat’. They have a formula, and by god they are sticking to it tonight.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it just left me wishing I’d listened to all of their records before coming tonight, as I think I would have enjoyed the show so much more if I had.
If the set was a little shorter (it ran in at about 90 minutes total tonight), and a bit more varied, this would have been a spectacular show. Instead, it was thoroughly enjoyable for the most part, which isn’t bad going for my first real experience of the band.
Anyway, I’m off to buy some Swans records…any suggestions?