SWANS are coming back to New York next week, slated to bring their notoriously sensory-engulfing live experience to both the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan and the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Regrettably, due to both work and family related conflicts I shall not be able to attend either gig. While that’s a huge bummer for me -– SWANS are pretty much second only to Killing Joke, in my book, coupled with the fact that Michael Gira continues to assert that this is the final tour with the current incarnation of the band -– I have seen them multiple times before, most notably at the show during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I snapped the photo up top of Gira & Co. in mid-pummel at same.
I’ve also been loving The Glowing Man, the band’s typically sprawling third installment in the loose triptych that also includes 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To Be Kind. While this most recent work is widely touted as showcasing the band’s less bombastic side – don’t be fooled. It is still abundantly ripe with the band’s signature brand of explosive musical tumult, usually manifesting itself in epic-length preambles of deceptively climactic crescendos before settling into glacial grooves, seismic riffs and Gira’s soul-puncturing basso profundo. Beat Happening this ain’t.
That said, The Glowing Man is considerably more advanced than the band’s less salubrious incarnations from the 80’s that narrowly courted the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records for possibly being “the loudest band in the world.” Instead of simply the flagellating sonic cataclysm of that era, many of the selections on The Glowing Man don’t so much detonate as …arrive, evoking the disquietingly slow, meandering drift upriver toward the horrors of Colonel Kurt’s compound in “Apocalypse Now.” Again, there’s probably no “Song of the Summer” to be found here.
While I can’t go, I’m dead sure the shows next week are going to live up to their reputation. Bring your earplugs, as the sound produced from that stage will not only rattle your sternum like a vibraslap, but the collective concentration and energy generated during those performances always seems like a breath away from ripping a hole in the space/time continuum. You can leave your tap shoes at home.
Anyway, I’m not writing all this just to make myself feel bad about missing the shows, but rather because I spotted a great interview with Gira in the Observer today which found him not only ruminating on unlikely subjects like the merits of Lady Gaga, but also found him speaking for the first time in some months about the allegations from celebrated singer/songwriter Larkin Grimm, a former Young God Records signee and arguable protégé, who very publicly accused Gira of rape earlier this year. As the next chapter in that particularly ugly saga, this interview is worth a read.