Review Summary: Swans take a step forward in terms of experimentation, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite gel together yet.
Swans. The name alone seems somewhat blunt and mysterious, which reflects the nature of their music. As Michael Gira himself put it, swans are majestic creatures, with ugly temperaments. This majestic, yet ugly sound would prove to be effective on releases such as Children of God
and The Great Annihilator
, but their beginnings seem to stick to the violent temperaments. Their sophomore record, Cop
, is easily the best example of this, but there’s only so much pummeling one can do before it becomes stale. So, with the recruitment of Jarboe, addition of softer dynamics, and the growth of their platter of instruments, Swans began to understand this. The result is a rather intriguing record known as Greed
is best described as the stepping stone between the epic feeling of 90s Swans, and the brutal attack of early 80s Swans. They mesh together the beautiful elements of their sound, as well as the filthy elements of their sound (no pun intended). For instance, the opener “Fool”, is led by a piano instead of noise and feedback, or how the title track is full of Jarboe’s majestic backing vocals. Still though, the atmosphere is bleak and noisy, with pounding bass and drums being used on nearly every track. As a whole, the album is pieced together quite nicely, but generally sticks to the aforementioned sounds. The pace is generally at a crawling speed, the songs maintain a beautifully noisy sound, and they like to drone on and repeat lines in an attempt to hypnotize the listener. Unfortunately though, this is the element they had not yet mastered.
The material presented here is by no means bad, but there are plenty of elements that would later be improved upon. For instance, songs such as “Nobody” and “Heaven” seem to continuously repeat their sequences, which should be mesmerizing, but ultimately don’t quite develop into that feeling. Another gripe is the fact that the evolution hasn’t quite happened yet, it’s slowly creeping through. Every song seems to keep that same pummeling feeling and sense of hopelessness, which doesn’t differ too far from their past material. While this could be a bridge between the two decades of music Swans presented, the ideas presented don’t work as much as one would like them to.
So what does Greed
present to the listener? It shows some sure signs of evolution, but the feeling they're going for isn't quite there yet. They still like to attack the listener into submission, but there is a hypnotic element they’re attempting to present that they simply don’t quite have yet. If anything, this is more of an interesting Swans record instead of a truly entertaining one. Greed
would fit well in any collection for fans of the band, but it wouldn’t serve as a good starting point for newcomers at all due to the unrefined sound. So, this would serve any Swans fan who is interested in the evolution of their sound, but it’s not a good starting point. To finish with one final thought, Greed
is a sign of change in the Swans sound, but the ideas aren’t quite refined yet.