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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Album / Video of the week, Nov. 10

Album of the week - The Swans: Leaving Meaning

I never got to systematically review the Swans past their first few albums, but I've listened to them quite extensively over the years, and was quite amazed how Gira re-emerged in the 2010s to much greater critical and fan acclaim than the band had ever managed to gather in its youth. Since The Seer, I think, just about every Swans release got rave reviews, but this newest offering, once again a double-CD beast of epic length, seems to be "coasting". It is more quiet and hypnotic, more OM-like than the dense Freudian jungles of The Seer, and you really have to get yourself in the mood for lots and lots of winding repetition to enjoy it. Sonically, I don't think Gira and company are reinventing themselves here, it's basically just a collection of very static, very somber grooves for the latest funeral of your soul. Actually, scratch that, it's not that dark or depressing, and some of the songs even sound downright optimistic; the penultimate number 'What Is This?' is like the band's equivalent of a drunken sea shanty. I just prefer Gira when he's sober and terrifying, not slightly drunk and relaxing, but if you gotta do that sometimes, then you gotta. Anyway, good record, but probably won't even make my personal top 5 for the band.

Here's their anthem of their own personal Sun cult:

Video of the week - Leonard Cohen: Live In London (2009)

I don't have any Swans DVDs, but somehow thoughts of darkness and death (as well as the constantly recurring dark folk motives in Gira's music) led me through an association chain to Leonard, whose relatively recent death I haven't commemorated in any way, so let me briefly atone by reminding everybody that this is one of the greatest concert movies of the 21st century - it not only reminds you that Cohen was one of those few musical artists whose late output matched his early output perfectly well in quality, it also reminds you just how perfect in all possible respects his artistic personality had always been, with an ideal balance between intelligence and emotionality, sincerity and sarcasm, humor and seriousness. Here, on 'Tower Of Song', there are at least three distinct moments during the performance that are at the same time hilarious and philosophically profound, and I challenge you to find them (don't worry, it's a perfectly easy challenge, though). As of now, I find myself returning to this concert at least once a month, and feel like it makes me a better man each single time.


  1. Two artist not (fully) covered by you before I love your take on. I was a little disappointed both David's and Leonard's death couldn't count on a review retake so far, but this will work for Leonard for now.
    Seems like you also enjoyed Swans later output, curious about your take on The Seer and To Be Kind too. Agree on your take here, leaving meaning does not have the same impact as the past few albums had.

    1. Loved The Seer a lot, To Be Kind not so much but also took more listens to the former than the latter. It was a sort of "wise wildness" as opposed to the reckless wildness of the early years.

  2. I find myself returning to this blog at least once a month, and I am so glad I did today to find this penetrating summary of the man's artistic personality and career - doo dam dam dam de doo dam dam. Indeed and thank you!