Review Summary: "SWANS ARE NOT DEAD" - Gira produces another stunning album
With as many genres as former members, Swans are legendarily original and when their singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira announced that “SWANS ARE NOT DEAD” via their Myspace page, the alternative music world could not believe their eyes. Many thought that Swans were finished after the release of their last album ‘Swans Are Dead’ (1998) which was compiled of live recordings from the 1995 – 1997 tours, and Jarboe and Gira desired to concentrate on their solo projects.
‘My Father ...’ is a very haunting record, with moments which strike an emotional bell inside the listener (such as the children’s voices in ‘You ***ing People Make Me Sick’). Throughout the LP, Gira chooses certain parts from albums past to stitch together ‘My Father ...’ using the Noise-Rock elements from early LPs such as ‘Filth’ (1983) and ‘Cop’ (1984), religious/minimalistic ideas from ‘Holy Money’ (1986) and the avant-garde/experimental feel from throughout the Swans career.
‘No Words/No Thoughts’ is the most prominent display of noise-rock from ‘My Father ...’ with church bells, sirens and other miscellaneous sound creating a crushing and mind-blowing arrangement, which contains the heaviest moments on the album near the end which leaves the listener feeling violated by noise.
The vocals during the entire duration of ‘My Father ...’ are minimal and creepy to say the least and this really enhances the general feel of the LP, matching perfectly with the acoustic aspects. Gira often repeats lyrics, drilling them into the listener’s skull with his depressive and droning tone.
Lyrically, the LP is very focussed on religion and has many personal touches such as names (‘Jim’, ‘Inside Madeline’ and the voices of children). The religious mentions on this LP are numerous with gripping lyrics such as ‘Here is my hand, Now drive the nail in ... Here is my tongue, Now cut out my sin’ (from ‘Reeling the Liars In’) and these are reinforced by the vocal style.
Another highlight of the LP is on ‘Inside Madeline’, which is half a brutally progressive song that builds until it feels on the verge of exploding, then becomes incredible mellow with violins and more outstandingly captivating lyrics. In fact every single track on this album is memorable and different and it is very hard to find any flaws with this album.
In summary, ‘My Father ...’ is a unique and rewarding LP which may take a couple of plays to appreciate fully, remarkably combining a masterpiece of pure noise and minimalistic acoustic sections.