Pop/Rock

Swans, A Hawk and a Hacksaw

When: Sat., Oct. 20 2012

SWANS Long-defunct ’80s rock mag Trouser Press likened listening to Swans as banging your head underwater against the side of a swimming pool. The notion of Swans as a slo-mo bludgeoning has dogged the group’s main man Michael Gira ever since. Indeed, Gira’s lyrics continue to dwell on depression, death and despair. Like fellow psycho-sexual explorers Throbbing Gristle, Gira’s psyche springs from late-’70s performance-and-body art, where the pain of catharsis is designed to elevate us to a higher plane. Such tortured transcendence is Swans’ through line, even when the music turned quite pretty in the ’90s, with sparkly goth synths and massed acoustic guitars. The aching beauty of releases like Love of Life (1992) put the ever-present pain at a Brechtian remove, and this version of Swans verged on commercial acceptance. So, naturally, Gira killed the band in 1997. Reconstituted and renewed since 2010, Swans now makes music that draws on its past while sounding like nothing they’ve done before. Swans has always made immersive music, but Swans Mach 2 is psychedelia without any 1960s flower power tropes, an unholy union of shock experimentalist Glenn Branca’s pulsing repetition and Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd.

Pat Moran

Price: $16/$19


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