Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Album review: SWANS - To Be Kind

Highlights: Screen Shot, Bring The Sun, Kirsten Supine, Nathalie Neal


Well, how lovely is that. You have a band called Swans releasing an album called To Be Kind with a cover picture depicting a baby face. Cute! Granted, the baby is crying and the image comes off almost as unsettling as the one on the cover of The Seer (almost), but still. Just how far can you push the limits of this hellish juxtaposition?

Michael Gira has now hit the full stride. He is so deep in his element that I can make an accurate prediction: To Be Kind will be followed in 2015 with an H-bomb explosion of intensity and desperation and running time matching that of Erik Satie’s “Vexations”. If he doesn’t do that, we should feel robbed.

For all its monumental, self-indulgent excesses, To Be Kind offers no surprises. Basically, it is The Seer inflated. It lasts more than two hours, which means that if you don’t cut your veins open by the end of it, it’s more than two hours of your life wasted. Because these are 10 lengthy, exhaustive, exhilarating songs with Gira at the top of his wicked game. Dragging you through the stomach of a whale suffering from a mental collapse. And he will do what it takes to achieve that. Use a chainsaw, breathe heavily, have mad laughing as a hook, include some of the most disturbing screaming he has ever done (“Toussaint L’Ouverture” is fucking hell, pardon my French, and I mean it as a compliment) and god knows what else. It’s pointless to describe individual songs, it’s one brilliant mess. “Kirsten Supine” is very pretty, in a Swans kind of way. Could it make it onto an imaginary Angels Of Light album? No way.

I’m not immune to Michael Gira, but seeing their live show last year made me realise that he can no longer shock me. He can still disturb, overwhelm, fascinate me (and he certainly does that on To Be Kind), but I no longer find this shocking. Thankfully, this makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. Just don’t play it to a girl. She won’t like it. And if she does, well, the odds are she is not the one you wanted to meet. 

Once again, the rating is completely useless.

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