The Swans is a group I formerly found difficult to make my peace with. Having heard one LP—which one, I forget—I didn't much care for it even though the group was enjoying very good word of mouth and critical review. I still have a copy of another slab, Holy Money, though, because it's such a strange collision of Einstuerzende Neubauten, a barbed-out Killing Joke, touches of Merzbow and Last Exit, basically morphined diabolical high drama that just didn't connect with my own ears, still doesn't, and I'm not sure why. I always hang on to music like that, figuring I'll one day sort it out. This release, however, resolves the dilemma, and it may well be that the very label they're now releasing under, Young God (not coincidentally run by Swans' honcho Michael Gira), is the most effective agent of polemic in that regard, as YG has been home to quite a few very good cracked-art discs of late.
My Father emerges far more darkly melodic than Money and inducts Lou Reed, an ugly Legendary Pink Dots, and a welter of obscurer sophisticated influences I can't quite identify while following the kind of thick classicalist structures Glenn Branca and James Blackshaw might create. In other words, Gira has entered a new and far more mature phase I suspect will now indisputably mark him as force to be reckoned with well beyond past acclaim. The lead cut alone, No Words / No Thoughts is a powerhouse of oscillating lakes of calm and fury that's going to tear holes in the ears of Crimson-oids, Joke-sters, and Velvet-eens. However, a number of sessioneers come in through the side door, the enigmatic Devendra Banhart among them, so it isn't surprising when folk ruminations prance about as well, but with arch intent, dripping with leashed anger and righteous indignation (Reeling the Liars In).
Gira's almost a drop-dead ringer for Iggy Pop in the voicebox department, a trait that helps tremendously here as noise and chaos factors run rampant, the only controls centered in his measured conductive paces leashed just barely enough to prevent the studio from exploding. This is intense fare, not for the weak of heart or nerve, and one must suspect that the Swans have matured in the intervening years in ways even they didn't quite suspect. My Father is most likely the beginning of a whole new chapter for this band, and art rockers would do well take note, bend an ear, and ponder what their own next moves will be. A decent percentage of post-punk is showing a disposition to contend for territory.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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