In Association with
Musicians | Biography | Discography | Links
USA, NY, New York

Categories: Avant-garde



The SWANS epitomise the very essence of underground Rock. Essentially a duo of band mentor Michael Gira with longstanding partner JARBOE the SWANS output has bore a huge impression on hard music culture, this despite remaining resolutely of cult appeal. The group formation has ebbed and flowed around the Gira / Jarboe axis for each release and the band has undergone radical shifts in direction incorporating Punk, minimalist Industrialism and even roots Folk. Throughout their career, capped by the swansong 'Soundtracks For The Blind', the SWANS have engaged in public disputes with major labels whilst issuing a stream of officially sanctioned live bootlegs.

Rooted in Punk nihilist ethos Michael Gira assembled the first SWANS collective in the early eighties. The first brace of albums 'Filth' and 'Cop' made waves but it was the 'Raping A Slave' EP that forced a greater impression.

1983's opening album 'Filth', which harboured an almost Doom like guitar sound from Norman Westberg, had both Jonathon Kane and Roli Mossiman- later of the YOUNG GODS – on the drums. Bass would be in the hands of both Gira and Harry Crosby. This quartet, with the added incorporation of Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell, also cut the sophomore 'Cop' in 1984. Live the band employed loops, rustic samplers and tapes to enhance their sound.

For third effort 'Greed' the axis of musical delivery allowed for the introduction of no less than three drummers – Ted Parsons, Ivan Nahem and Gonzales, alongside rhythm partners on bass Harry Crosby and newcomer Algis Kizys. JARBOE debuted with the SWANS on this release, albeit on haunting background wails.

1986's 'Holy Money'- the first record to feature JARBOE proper- and 'Children Of God' albums, hailed by the Industrial movement as a prime influence, fulfilled the first phase of SWANS history. 'Holy Money' had actually been recorded in parallel with 'Greed' but would capture much more extensive use of JARBOE's vocal stylings, ranging from ethereal moods, to gospel to banshee like howls. Musically the album gave a rollercoaster ride plummeting from massed percussion to gentle piano interludes. Post 'Children Of God' a shift of tack signalled a headlong dive into Psychedelia.

Breaking their penchant for unpredictability the SWANS played it safe by recording a cover version of JOY DIVISION's hit 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. A radio hit in Europe, this track secured a deal with the major MCA label.

In 1989 the SWANS took an adventurous gamble into commerciality with 'Burning World'. The experiment was largely judged a failure and Gira fell back into a juxtaposed schism of sound by blending orchestrated folk with the harshest of musical environments for 1991's follow up 'White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity'. Artwork for the album, a cartoon rabbit, belied the ferocity of its contents but by the time of sequel 'Love Of Life', sporting two bunnies ablaze, fans had got the message. This album marked the use of compulsive experimentation as a medium but by 1995's 'The Great Annihilator' the band had once again taken a left turn, this time into pulsing tribalism. To coincide with this album Gira published his book 'The Consumer And Other Stories' via HENRY ROLLINS publishing company.

The drone centred 'Soundtracks For The Blind', seeing Larry Mullins of the IGGY POP band on drums, found Gira and Jarboe employing archive recordings from their childhood, including conversations from Gira's blind father and FBI surveillance tapes. Touring for one last time Gira and Jarboe took onboard COP SHOOT COP drummer Phil.

Copyright Musicdetector Websites 2009