Selected Press Quotes 1982-1992
1982 | 1983 |1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1991 | 1992
Simply put, this is some
of the most powerful music I have ever heard. There's no coming up for air,
absolutely no exit.
-EAST VILLAGE EYE 1982.
Forget the paradox of a
band playing brutally aggressive music while taking their name from the most
graceful of creatures. At CBGB recently, SWANS roared out a set of muscular
tell-tale heartthuds which had the audience stupefied in spine-straight positions.
Call it Anglo-Saxon anxiety at the farthest outpost of the r'n'r beat. You can't
dance to it, but boy, can you throb.
- VILLAGE VOICE 1983.
A crashing, whomping, searing,
fierce thing. This is a terrific live band. Gira, barefoot, muscles rippling,
hangs off the mic like an angry Christ anchoring the hurricane of noise swirling
around him. Their masochisms and violent sensibility can border on the ridiculous,
but it's all pretty much in keeping with this striking and creative band.
- THE NEW YORK ROCKER 1983.
makes PIL sound like Buck's Fizz. We're talking heeeeavy. We're talking lead
weights at the bottom of the Thames. The NYC quartet are already becoming legends.
They flaunt rock'n roll religions with the cynical mirth of antagonistic exorcists.
People in the Sounds office hide under their desk when this record hits the
- SOUNDS 1984.
Their plunging into the
depths of power and degradation is universal enough, but there's a black intensity
to their sound. Theirs is a sound of the outer limits of violence turned inwards,
to create an implosion that is a release, of sorts.
- NME 1984
Even slower and more crushing
in the effect of its white-noise guitar, disturbing drum patterns and mesmeric
tape loops. Likewise the subject matter - jobs, power, punishment, the police
- is grotesquely inflated and then burst. It's the pus, blood, and shit of everyday
life taken to the furthest extremes artistic license affords. Yet like all extremes,
honesty is at its core.
- SOUNDS 1984.
This bonecrushing sound,
played in a language of ugly bass frequencies and drum parts of iron purpose,
takes rock's force further than it's ever been pile-driven before.
- NME 1984
Their message is that power
of any kind ultimately brutalizes and dehumanizes those who wield it as well
as those who submit to it. For some listeners, this one included, SWANS provide
a bracing jolt that no other music can deliver.
- THE NEW YORK TIMES 1985.
No light is admitted. It
grinds on harder and harder, every dribble of moisture wrung out. The rock stops
- NME SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1985.
It's hard to imagine a
less companionable record. The brutal guitars, cruel drums, relentless intimations
of collapse are all too detailed, too insistently monolithic to be called simple
noise. So what do you call it? Call it SWANS.
-THE BOSTON PHOENIX 1985.
Expertly produced, the
new SWANS 12" is stimulating, thought provoking, and most of all, troublesome.
It leaves you hoping you'll never have to meet them in the flesh.
- SOUNDS SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1985.
A deeply repulsive form
of audio pornography.
- MELODY MAKER 1986.
People pay to watch M.
Gira rant and slaver warm yellow strings of spittle onto his naked torso. Pay
- BOSTON SWEET POTATO 1986.
Having existed on the fringe
of the NY underground for five years, the SWANS are about as much fun as watching
gangrene set in. But fun isn't exactly what SWANS are all about. Their music
of cruelty is filled with silences as studied and meaningful as Japanese Noh
theater, and their concentration, tension, and hypnotic repetition and haunting
intensity redefine white noise: in the SWANS world it's black noise for gray
matter, music that is genuinely physical and visceral, a ritual of pain that
leaves one drained.
- THE LOS ANGELES TIMES 1986.
Oh...My...this isn't seduction,
this is rape. Purveyors of the most physically intense music I have ever heard
live, SWANS are an aural illusion of contrasts which simply shouldn't work.
One of the all time loudest bands, their silences are perfect, and the slowest
rock ever performed leaves one hyped-up to terminal speed freak levels. Quite
extraordinary...So why did I, for one, walk out of the club, erection in hand,
and no immediate home for it? The aphrodisiac lies somewhere in SWANS' chemistry
of sheer brutal volume and crushing rhythm. And all one can do is stand agog
- SOUNDS 1986.
SWANS records are undeniably
cathartic, and their live shows are even more so: when Gira is on his knees,
writhing under white light, bellowing into his microphone that just moments
ago he shoved down the back of his throat, there is something intense, hysterical,
and kind of moving.
- THE BOB 1986.
This is pure Love. Something
like pure War... the grind or the screw for the SWANS is the arena where brutality
and humilation can be fantasized, perverted or simply fucked into oblivion.
Pure, raw, energy, molding a new flesh around exposed nerves.
- NME 1986.
It's not real pretty, but
it's sure as shit bigger than you.
- SPIN 1986.
The repetitiveness of their
slow rhythms is one of the most effective music I have ever heard, even if it
does become eventually intolerable.
- NME SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1986.
This was some serious shit,
and made the likes of Motorhead seem like pansies in comparison. Not 'cause
it was extreme, but because it was so precisely drilled out. Jarboe's Mirage
(sampler) keyboard chords were enough to shatter walls, yet they didn't crackle
up into a mayhemic mess. Same for the more standard instrumentation, and most
amazing of all, Gira's vocals stood right there on top, crystal clear, which
seemed almost illegal or something. It might take me three years to fully come
to grips with this one, really.
- FORCED EXPOSURE 1986, LIVE REVIEW.
Time and time again, SWANS
plunge purposefully into dense, dank, hypnotic pools of heated passion and frightful
power. Once you cut through the squeamishness that this ensemble seems to engender
in even the most hale-hearted, what SWANS are about is powerfully stated sound,
powerful feeling, and power itself... If you can't make this music part of your
life, then you ain't living.
- SPIN 1987.
And it's ugly, and it's
difficult, and it's long and sometimes wearying, and peculiarly beautiful, and
- NME 1987.
A tremendously exciting
maturation for one of America's most powerful musical forces.
- REFLEX MAGAZINE 1987.
A total and utter must.
Children of God is one of the releases of the year, if not the latter part of
the decade. A monster-piece. Obtain it at once.
- ROCKPOOL 1987.
On the opening cut of Holy
Money, A Hanging, lifeless voices chant in harmony, raising specters of a slave
gang in hell as vicious drumbeats and gongs sound like some monstrous taskmaster.
Over it all lead singer M. Gira, singing so low and slowly he sounds like he's
on the wrong speed, delivers such lyrics as "Dear God in heaven... I'll
hang for you"...Few bands rival the SWANS when it comes to black humor...then
again, some days you just have to get it out of your system.
- PEOPLE MAGAZINE 1987.
Nobody, I mean nobody,
writes lyrics like M. Gira. Almost always they are blunt statements written
in a brutally frank and unadorned style. They delve into feelings and yearnings
we all have but which we normally hide because they make us too queasy to acknowledge.
They deal with the degrading aspects of power, domination, and submission and
the horror of simply BEING. The words may look banal on paper, but when Gira
sings them with a voice that could scare the holy excrement out of God, they
become infernally powerful...He rarely leaves his NYC apartment, and says the
worst thing about the city is that it "contains a large amount of people".
- CREEM 1987.
Like a sledgehammer to
your solar plexus... Hell, you can even frug to this, if it doesn't kill you
- SPIN 1987.
Faced with such a maelstrom
of sound - never unregulated noise - the listener has few options. Dancing is
impossible. Watching is mandatory as Michael, in varying states of undress,
somersaults or shoves his bare buttocks into the front row - faces who lap up
the absurdity of the spectacle. Alternately, one can stand rooted to the spot
and be sucked into the communal exorcism SWANS now offer. A Church of the New
Mind, with Gira singing like a hellfire preacher drinking gasoline and spitting
brimstone, SWANS have placed rock and roll on the alter and sacrificed it to
give birth to a unique musical vision and sensualist empire. Get down on your
knees and pray with them. Immense.
- NME LIVE REVIEW 1988.
Children of God works.
As austere and solemn as a Bresson film, it's almost as potent. After showing
us empty sex, a drowned lover, and a man holding a child while threatening to
kill it while screaming "This is my only regret: that I ever was born"
SWANS take us to heaven, which is just another word for death.
- THE VILLAGE VOICE 1988.
SWANS keep getting better.
They might even surpass previous Godhead efforts.
- ROCKPOOL 1988.
A tremendous record...The
group has grown several new colors on its tonal pallet and evince subtlety without
giving up the erg of raw, rank, power...Once again the SWANS seem eager to wrap
up another phase and blow open whole new doors of exploration...A couple of
years ago I was dreading the potentially noxious results of each successive
release - now I simply can't wait.
- FORCED EXPOSURE, 1988.
Intensity is perhaps an
overused word in critics' circles, but there's no avoiding the term when it
come to SWANS. This is one intense group. They're a lot more, too - sacrilegious,
visceral, hypnotic, disturbing, entrancing, and in a sense, repellent. That
is, their world view offers precious little hope. The fact that all these things
come into play, though, makes you appreciate the SWANS experience. They play
rock'n roll that's out on the ledge.
- BOSTON GLOBE 1988.
SWANS, the band Michael
Gira has led since 1982, has entered its third phase. The early SWANS played
fast, angular, post-punk; then the group shifted to slow lurching drones topped
with discordant noise and lyrics about brutal conjunctions of sex and power,
dominance and submission. The latest SWANS lineup kept the old power, but the
guitar noise and dissonance were now gone - replaced by simple repeated chords
and riffs, and there were gentle, folkish tunes featuring the band's new female
singer Jarboe. While blood and death still show up in the SWANS lyrics, so does
a new symbol of power: God.
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, LIVE REVIEW 1988.
Pretty, yes. Lightweight,
no. Underlying all this are heavy omnipresent currents of power - more power
than most bands will generate in a lifetime.
- OPTION MAGAZINE 1988.
SWANS manage to sound as
astonishing "soft" as they did "abrasive"...a fabulous and
fantastic single that invites you to dream.
- NME SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1989.
Dangerous and priceless,
The Burning World flames from a tinder of crashing hearts, lost minds, and unexpected
mercy...The inevitable tides of rhythm, the hypnotic drone of the voice, leave
you with the marvelous and sick sensation that you are staring fascinated at
a beautiful slice in your own wrist...only by passing through so many frames
of darkness could SWANS approach pure light.
- SPIN 1989.
As befits a man who named his band after a shape of Zeus, Gira sees his dark world in sweepingly poetic terms, by turns mythic, Biblical, and Shakespearean. Gira's intensity is more believable in his live glowering presence - but at its best The Burning World approaches a haunting clarity equal to the band's epic vision. - THE WASHINGTON POST 1989.
Whereas once SWANS were
merciless in their aggression, beating the body with the loudest slabs of squall
extant, the band - which has been revamped - are now wholly mesmeric...Bare
footed and bathed in sweat, Michael Gira swaps vocals with Jarboe, the latter
a kaleidoscope of loose silks, and it's swiftly clear that confidence has replaced
the old arrogance...They have played themselves out of the corner of noise-works
and into a terrain of subtle mood swings. Exit an iron fist in the face enter
a caress. The audience loves SWANS. Unbelievable.
- NME LIVE REVIEW OF READING FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE 1989.
The Burning World is disarming
in its depth and trance-like musical power, a startlingly honest record.
- STEREO REVIEW 1989.
Their ticket out of the
noise jungle they themselves created...Genuinely new and exciting.
- SOUNDS SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1989.
In a sense White Light
From The Mouth Of Infinity is easy listening, and that's because it's such a
pleasure to get lost in its bruised but blissful panorama. Intensity like a
shower of colors all raining in your face...Infinity beckons...It's fucking
magnificent and anyone who chooses to mock the ambition and / or deny the result
is clearly possessed of sensibilities more commonly associated with single-celled
- MELODY MAKER 1991.
Too sedate and even pretty
for their early noise-and-bludgeon fans, and too stately and bleak for pop fans,
SWANS secret weapon is Jarboe, whose presence has brought the group a marked
melodic pull that has made the music satisfying.
- OPTION 1991.
The SWANS have never flown
to the beat of other drummers. What makes them truly unique is their use of
anger or ego couched in lullaby melodies and drifting revels. There is a sense
of decay on this record that surpasses all previous efforts, a feeling that
something is not quite right in the world. Where bliss gives ground to demons,
where the sublime becomes the horrific, where earth and death meet in pitched
- ROCKPOOL 1991.
Making maybe the most powerful
music of any grim-reaper dirge-rock outfit in this city or any other, gloomy
and noisy in its early years, SWANS have evolved by stripping it down to an
intensely focused funereal mantra, anthemic and operatic, the logical successor
to other great bands like the Velvets and Television. Records like Children
of God, The Burning World, and White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity contain
some of the most fiercely bleak rock elegies anyone ever opened a vein to. When
the apocalypse comes, it'll most likely come to NYC first , like everything
else, and SWANS will be here playing the theme music.
- NY PRESS, BEST NYC BAND 1991.
It's no coincidence that
SWANS made big noise throughout the '80s, their huge venomous slabs of muscle-music
chronicling the Greed, Filth, Holy Money that made the Burning World run. The
SWANS didn't roll over and play pop, take the money and fly, or allow their
all-too-brief flirt with the Big Boys to sour them into oblivion, and it's a
testament to the strength and steadfastness of the unit, and most particularly,
to the sound-merchant behind it all.
- REFLEX 1991.
doesn't make any concessions to appeal to previous noise days. There is that
concern for song structure as well as sound structure. There is an emphasis
on emotion that straddles the line between aching and saccharine, fear and bombast,
complacency versus insecurity. "White Light" features the kind of
warmth reserved for embracing the thing that is most dangerous to the individual.
Long hard stares just don't come any more alluring.
- ALTERNATIVE PRESS 1991.
Expansion of an originally
raw hard rock sound is something that's worked to the real benefit of such bands
as Sonic Youth and Social Distortion. Like them, the SWANS are proving that
moving forward doesn't always mean surrendering your individuality and purpose.
- CREEM 1991.
It's still Michael Gira's
obsessive show, as his search for heaven and hell - in both mind and body -
continues on its fascinating, sometimes harrowing way.
- LOS ANGELES TIMES 1991.
Here's Michael Gira and
Jarboe totally at ease with melodic consonance at last. SWANS now play a very
emotion-laden, symphonically thick and sacredotally toned stuff. It's honestly
majestic and very moving indeed.
- YOUR FLESH 1991.
It's hard to remain objective
when faced with the beautiful noise of paradise burning, worlds collapsing,
memory failing, numbness setting in...White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
is simply the most accomplished, melodic, and aesthetically pleasing collection
of songs this NYC-spawned arthouse hardcore troupe have yet produced.
- NME 1991.
They chime, they drone,
they dazzle, they daze. And the force of their depth charge bass lines makes
you think dinosaurs might still be walking the earth...They set their controls
for the heart of the sun...Grace mixing with danger, a heady swirl that is also
physically intense, an abstruse sense of physical cleansing and catharsis.
- BOSTON GLOBE LIVE REVIEW 1992.
For once Gira doesn't create
a thing of beauty in order to destroy it. He just allows the thing to blossom
and fills it with joy, a rare and splendid pleasure Love of Life is all-embracing,
a triumph of perseverance and ingenuity.
- MELODY MAKER SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1992.
SWANS have never been more
powerful or more beautiful. Agreed, they don't deliver the voyeuristic thrill
they once did when Gira thought he was Christ (or at least gave us a convincing
impression he was thinking so) and was obsessed with themes of domination and
abject submission. But even without the apparent extremism he is as compelling
as ever, probably more so...There's something larger than life, louder than
love, about SWANS. And when Gira comes out alone to sing Failure you want to
scream out "You're not a failure, you're Goddamned Prometheus!", or
- MELODY MAKER LIVE REVIEW 1992.
Love of Life is the first
SWANS album to resolve the band's urge for a larger audience with its knack
for creating music that loves getting on peoples' nerves...SWANS will trounce
their demons and forever dance in a flickering spot of neon light.
- SPIN 1992.
Love of Life, a highly
disciplined new work from the SWANS, is stunning, a deep and resounding soundscape
which cannot be ignored.
- THE FIFTH PATH 1992.
This is SWANS best album,
tightly woven with strands that are both seductive and disturbing. Given its
emotional clout, the noise terrorism tactics of yore seem clumsy by comparison.
- SELECT 1992.
The SWANS have followed
up last years' White Light with an equally disturbing, haunting, revelated glimpse
into the post-modern world of society gone mad, emotions entombed, and hope
and faith, elevated to new, precarious levels. A dark gem.
- ROCKPOOL 1992.
Pounding drums, crashing
cadences, and slowly shifting melodic patterns are lusciously orchestrated into
hymns of despair, loss, love, and other eternal questions that Gira will probably
never come close to answering but few others choose to ponder with such hard-headed
dedication...Mad Michael's on our side at last.
- NME 1992.
Forging through a decade
of change and discoveries, SWANS converge upon a crossroads of tangible sensations
and mystic dreams. Michael Gira and Jarboe, along with old and new collaborators,
create layer upon layer of depth, yet free themselves from the weight of previous
releases, pulling you into bliss among the rocks.
- CMJ 1992.
The SWANS have been around
for ten years - a lifetime in the world of "Alternative" music - and
in that time they have kept several giant leaps ahead of others, and themselves,
for that matter, and have avoided stagnation and sameness Step One: Relax. Step
Two: Listen to Love of Life all the way through at least twice. Step Three:
- THE ROCKET 1992.