Review Revue: Swans – Young God EP


Wow! If there’s anything that really gets the discussion going, it’s difficult, critically-acclaimed music. For any band that takes some digesting and is adored by artsy, critical types, there will always be legions of people who think it’s all a bunch of hype and those who think it’s good are just a bunch of poseurs (I’ve been on both sides of that divide with various artists, let me tell ya). I think there is probably no better illustration of this than the heated discussion on the front and back of SwansYoung God EP.

Led by Michael Gira (now known for his solo project Angels of Light and for bringing us Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family and other artists via his label Young God Records), Swans were notorious in the 80s for being one of the loudest, darkest, most challenging acts in rock – or any other medium, for that matter. Their album and song titles alone would probably be enough to convince most people of this fact, but legend has it that they often played their live shows at such painful volumes that audience members would vomit and/or the police would come to stop the show. If that’s not art, I don’t know what is.

This is a long one, so let’s get down to it! I apologize for the lack of order to these quotes, but it’s really hard to tell what order they might have been written in, who’s replying to whom, etc. Just roll with it.

“A new world vision. Organismusic, OK?”

“Just like Nissan.”

“‘Raping a Slave’ is fantastic – one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard – play it, but the end cuts cold.”

“Possibly the most awful listening experience available. Sorry. Ultra-yuk.”

This is shit!”

“Yes exactly.”


“It was great.”

“This record is ultra-good.”

“Please god, I just wanna be cool.”

“This was never meant to be ‘cool’ or anything and people who ‘like’ it because it’s ‘cool’ to do so are idiots. This is however some of the most powerfully gut-wrenching stuff (music, noise, whatever) ever recorded. Some people want their guts wrenched, some can’t handle it. I dig this – fuck you.”

“I don’t give shit for ‘cool.’ I don’t give shit for ‘good, great.’ I like this record. I like this band for my own reasons. Fuck everything else. OK?”


“Robt. Palmer of the NY Times wrote an article on Swans & Sonic Youth. He liked ‘em! So none of you are as cool as y’wanna believe. Drop dead.”

“Couldn’t’a said it better myself.”

“Whether you like it or not, this is not rock & roll.”

“Great R & R upsets parents and clears rooms. This is great R & R and you’re all fit to be listening to ‘gourmet rock’!”

[written over the preceding in bright red marker:] “AND THAT’S THAT?”

“It’s hard for the common to approach new ideas.”

“If only this record had any …”

“God’s gift to the music industry.”

“Ooooh! Video please! Again and again and again. Dead cats!”

“You know what? Michael Gira went out with Madonna, for a long time even (he’s the singer/founder), so he’s not even as cool as one would expect. THIS IS TRUE!” [Note: this is not true, as far as I can tell. I found this interview with Sonic Youth where the interviewer says it as a joke in response to Thurston Moore’s claim that she went out with a friend of theirs for a while. When the interviewer says “Madonna went out with Michael Gira,” Thurston says “Why Michael Gira? . . . You can’t say Michael Gira, ’cause he’d be offended.”]

“It’s a sad commentary on the music of today when pure shit like this gets hailed as the greatest ‘music’ of all time.”

“Doesn’t improve with age.”

“Why can’t we accept noise as noise and not some brilliant, ‘culturally right’ or relevant thing? Just admit you like or dislike it, because you like noise or don’t like noise.”

“You mean this isn’t Heavy Metal?”

[This comment scribbled out beyond recognition.]

“Eat c–t” [This will be the only place I exercise a little restraint, and hold back from printing everyone’s words as written. Unlike the FCC, I’m not that concerned with F or S bombs, but this one is a bit much.]

“Blech” [Not sure if that’s in response to the record, or the previous comment. If it’s the latter, my sentiments exactly!]

“Well excuse me for being interested in something new and alternative.” [Wow, remember that word? “Alternative”? Those were the days . . .]

“A little musical exploration is really painless.” [Unless you were in the audience at some of those Swans shows, I’m guessing.]

“I’m playing this after ‘Blue Monday.’ So there!”

“This sucks! Period.”

“I [heart] this disc. Period.”

“One of the best rock & roll bands of all time. Almost as revolutionary as the Beatles or Elvis, even.”

“Wonder if it sounds better at 33?”

“This peice [sic] of garbage is a classic example of KCMU djs/programmers trying to outcool each other (at the listeners’ expense).”

And, on the reverse side, the discussion continues …


I can’t think of a better last word than that, so don’t read this sentence.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 29, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    True. This is going to be hard to beat. I love the ‘challenging’ description. And ‘don’t steal this, asshole!’ is so good. ‘Wonder if it sounds better at 33′, that’s a dagger. Levi, these things are so good. ‘You mean this isn’t heavy metal’?

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“Alfred: (in regards to other side) Who ever [scribbled out word] (excuse me) performed the humorectomy on you didn’t finish the job. Because, while you can’t see the humor in what others say, do and write; others laugh at your exaggerated, dour passion …”

“Gee, sorry Dad …”

“‘This is Mine’ – gutwrenching, powerful, full of tension …”

“I love this record sooo much.”

“And I think I hate Michael Gira sooo much.” [These two comments appear to be by the same person.]

“Is this the only record up here that ever had an ‘over’ side? Basically, this is sexy. Music to sex by.”