Friday, September 7, 2012

2 Hours with Swans: A Review of The Seer

Let's face it, an album that clocks in at around two hours is going to have its highs and lows, and if you're a band that sticks to the same sound, it'll end up being dull. Swans is able to achieve something very different with their new LP, The Seer. Although this is an incredibly dense record to get through, the outcome ends up being pretty well worth it.

Before this review, I sat through and listened to every track on this album three times. That ends up being around 6 hours of time trying to come up with a coherent review that best describes this album and long running band (i.e. PLEASE READ THIS AND MAKE THAT TIME SPENT HAVE MEANING). My efforts became futile when I remembered Swans treads that fine line between drone music, noise rock and everything else you could possibly imagine - Godspeed You! Black Emperor, anyone? Like I said, this album IS daunting to finish at points. "Mother Of The World" put me off this album every time I listened to it due to its Primus-y guitar riffs and terrifying vocals - can making an "oo-wee" sound be classified as such? The strong points of the album come from the guests featured in a few tracks. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's eerily sings through amazing lyrics in "Songs for a Warrior", a standout track; also, it's one of the shortest on the album, coming in at just over 4 minutes. Folk/experimental band Akron/Family lends their talent on "A Piece of the Sky", which runs through 10 minutes of noise before coming in with a dark, southern jam.

After writing this -- while listening to the album...again -- it became easy to distinguish what's good and what's just bad. For fans of drone, this album is perfect: two hours of really good noise and ambiance infused with different styles of post rock and punk. For new comers, get ready for a difficult listen. The long tracks are sure to drive many away, but for the most part, they end up sounding incredibly well put together. Front man Michael Gira says it's taken 30 years to create this album, in the sense that it's every past Swans record crammed into a two hour mess that comes together at some points, and just plain falls flat at others.

Grade: B-

P.S. Check out the track "Song for a Warrior" featuring Karen O

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