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Thursday, August 13

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« CANCELLED: P.O.S. @ Bottom Lounge Review: Ben Folds Five at The Chicago Theatre 9/30/2012 »

Preview Mon Oct 22 2012

Preview: Pummeling Poetics with Swans @ Metro

Whether or not you know much about no-wave, about its seedy origins in the late-'70s East Village as a formless, art-damaged half-response to the thriving CBGB scene a few years earlier; whether or not you heard about it word-of-mouth or mentioned via passing references to Thurston Moore and Lydia Lunch; or if you've ever heard the canonizing compilation by Brian Eno, and even if you were actually there more than 30 years ago, what you probably do know is that it's going to be loud, that the normal rules of songcraft, tone or musical "talent" don't apply, and that it's gonna be a mess — albeit a beautiful, ramshackle one. Since the beginning, Michael Gira and Swans have always been on the more aggressive and technical side of no-wave, but they've also stacked up plenty of moments among its most transcendent highs in their 30-plus-year history.

When Michael Gira reactivated Swans in 2010 without the help of seminal original member Jarboe, you might be forgiven for questioning whether he still had it in him to crank out the same kind of pummeling industrial poetics that made his group a legend. But then you hear the two records they've released since, including this summer's epic (and excellent) double album The Seer, and kick yourself for even asking. Yeah, they've got it just fine, and Gira's still not sugarcoating — let alone explaining — much of anything.

Much has been written about Gira's tendency to drift toward morbid or otherwise impenetrable lyrics — he owes as much of his glum moodiness to early post-punkers like Joy Division as he does Jean Genet or the Marquis de Sade — so it's no surprise he views his musical expression as a form of sado-masochistic release. Nevertheless, the continuous deconstruction and re-layering of rhythms, textures and sonic imagery colors each Swans track in enough grating repetition and extra-physical drones to fully immerse the listener in Gira's morose, art-damaged world. If, you know, that's someplace you'd like to be.

The result is more fascinating and aesthetically compelling than a no-wave newcomer might expect, evoking peers Sonic Youth at the early high-water marks of their career, Confusion is Sex and Kill Yr Idols. But with Thurston et. al. now facing an unknown future, it's looking like Swans are left, at least for now, with the weight of the no-wave crown — something like the reigning anti-champs of visceral, back-alley epics where subtlety is found in the aggressive. Really, though, there's nothing quite like what Swans can do themselves, comparisons be damned. We're just happy to have them back.

Catch Swans at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, on Wednesday, October 24th at 9pm, with A Hawk and A Hacksaw opening. Tickets are $26, 18+ only. Make sure to bring yourself some earplugs (or buy a pair at the Metro bars).

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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