Posted by Jason Diamond
2010, Young God Records
I’m not sure what kind of person considers themselves a Swans fan. I don’t think that the group ever really has casual listeners, people who liked a few songs here and there. The band’s super committed fanboy following is one of the things I love most about Swans.
These are the people who truly appreciate Swans, and I count myself as one of them. When the group finally disbanded around 1996, it probably seemed like the most reasonable course of action. I can only assume Michael Gira, the chief architect of Swans, had exhausted all his Swans-options. Gira’s next projects, the group Angels of Light, and the superb Young God Records, satisfied him for long enough.
Now we’re here in 2010, and Gira has gotten Swans back together. I don’t know why — I’ve always taken everything the man has done at face value, but the initial announcement threw me for a loop. It’s not nostalgia, nor does it look like they need the cash. We weren’t in the midst of a Swans revival — which is usually the sort of thing that causes old soldiers to reenlist. There’s no explanation for the existence of new album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. But now it does, and now we are better off.
I don’t know Michael Gira. I like to imagine he spent the last decade planning the new album, carefully, lovingly. On track one, the venomous “No Words/No Thoughts,” I hear the grit and grime of early works of The Bad Seeds, and it out-grinds the current Cave work in Grinderman. It’s the type of song that, at just under ten minutes, burns slowly. I’d like to say this is vintage Swans, but it’s not. It’s something better.
After that last note is banged and clanged, I prepared myself for more abuse, but Gira shocks with an Angels of Light-inspired dark gospel hymn, “Reeling the Liars In.”
The album is seductive, dark, and it doesn’t let you rest from the first sound to the last. The spooky, Devendra Banhart sung, “You Fucking People Make Me Sick,” is the best thing Devendra has touched since his early days on Young God. The closer, “Little Mouth,” kills you gently, fading out to a blissful shade of black.
I don’t know where Swans can go from here. If they choose to continue to build on this momentum, I’d be happy to hear the end result; however, if this is the last dispatch from one of the most challenging bands to emerge from the American underground, then it will be the grandest exit I’ve heard yet.