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The Glowing Man
The Glowing Man
Price: £14.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This cannot and will not go on, 18 Jun. 2016
This review is from: The Glowing Man (Audio CD)
Let's summarise first. Yes, this is Swans last album in their current form. Not their last album full stop. Yes, it's more moody than the previous ones: if TBK was more about an odd groove then this is more about an odd mood. Yes, it has a big track with many passages not unlike The Seer and Bring the Sun/TL. The guitar tunings still sound a little Sonic Youth-ey (perhaps even more on this release) but the songs very little. It also a really good, if perhaps not great, album. The passage of time will likely call The Seer great - for its innovation and surprise - and To Be Kind and The Glowing Man as admirable, if less surprising follow-ups.

Swans aren't pretending anything else, to be fair. It's the same card sleeve look as the previous release - probably the most obvious physical continuity since the Bunny albums. They also do indeed repeat the de-doom de-doom de-doom passage from Bring the Sun (something that doesn't quite work in my view, though I still enjoy it!) In other words, they're not pretending it's anything but an evolution of their current state. It's probably the longest state that they've ever been in and the first time in which you could ever really call them a band - rather than a core project team (the Gira, Westberg, Jarboe core of yore). Swans have usually been dead after every album except perhaps for those bunnies. It's obvious though and clearly the case for Mr G who is not the sort of guy that likes to do the same thing twice: he's not going to get a job in a call centre, right? And he made the judgement before anyone else did - this cannot and will not go on, good though it has been.

I've had it for a week now and promised to give it a good few spins before I laid down my thoughts - probably 8 or 9 spins, though I haven't counted. I've put it through its paces: on my trusty old ipod - walking from London Waterloo to my job in the City (no I don't have a sculpted beard), having it play in my ears whilst I thrash out my thinking at work, playing it in the car to and from a funeral, playing it to my 10 year old son on a good old CD player. It's quieter and moodier over all with its equal (in numbers of song terms) blend of "written live" versus the more traditional written acoustic and then dicked about with in the studio. Mrs G does an admiral job of taking the lead on When Will I Return? and other helpers do the Jarboe job well enough on helping out with all the "Aaahh" stuff that does feel like a new reference on this album to the Bunny era; Mr G does his own "Aaahh" stuff too - Jarboe taught him well.

My biggest complaint would have to be the track sequencing. Getting it early means that itunes couldn't recognise it so I had to manually choose it's sequence otherwise it's Track 1 (CD 1)followed by Track 1 (CD 2) and so on. Amusingly, I couldn't always follow the album sequence and I'd also hit on a few classic "albumless" reggae track that had a mate had done for me years ago. You can imagine that that worked quite well! To the point though, the prescribed sequence doesn't do the mix of tracks justice; mixing up the shorter, "studio" tracks better would have made it a little more digestible. When Will I Return? or People Like Us would surely make a better Track 2 on the first CD. Anyway, what do I know.

The title track itself is as good as The Gate promised - it has all those weird passages and ultimately leads on to a kind of groove that only Swans could produce. A gem, really. Similarly, Finally, Peace was always going to be a belter and was always going to be the final track (obvious from The Gate) as it just has a good hook and serves as a good antidote to the title track.

But, this sound must end. A group of great musicians that clearly gelled well but clearly play a certain way creates a band that Swans should never be - for too long. Thor's bells and chimes, the slide guitar, the easy grooves, all need a rethink. Since he's reconnected with Thurston, maybe it's time they got together, and did something for old time's sake - that, sounds like nothing we've ever heard before.


Unlistenable
Unlistenable
Price: £22.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Unfathomable, 6 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Unlistenable (Audio CD)
I'd listened to SPBT a fair bit in the early 90s, particularly enjoying 1990's noisy and wacky Tulip. Signing up to a major label was a mistake for band and label: they're just not a major label kind of band, greed on both sides. However, Slash Records' suggestion that this was unlistenable is just not the case and is really an accusation of stylistic inconsistency. Sure it's noisy at times but there's plenty less palatable records put out there. It's just that it's a glorious sloppy mess of creativity, lurching merrily between styles and moods with no obvious structure, if you like that kind of thing. It's an album where anything and everything goes. And why not.

Unusually for SPBT it sounds like a number of other bands: Butthole Surfers, Jesus and Mary Chain, Big Black and even Cornershop, making a record together on a sinking pirate ship. Odd: in a good way. You could say that it's like the Buttholes and JAMC team up for the Cars covers with ludicrous Gibbytronix style vocals over a wall of distortion (What I Need sounds remarkably like the pounding USSA from Locust Abortion Technician but with a Cars chorus....), Big Black provide the bad batman grooves and Cornershop chip in on the jazzy in-betweens with guitar moments from a chirpy Alice Donut.

A large degree of sounding like other bands almost led me to mark it down to 4 stars for less originality but given their original intention of covering the whole of the Cars first album and the overall creativity on display here I had to give it 5. And let's face it, there's some stuff on here that just sounds like good old SPBT, without some of the predictable descent into, albeit their own trademark, noise. In fact, A Kinder Party, the longest track on the album is classic evolved SPBT with a slow Sabbathy grind. Spun follows nicely on in this vein but it's Black Eye Fixer that particularly stands out as a worthy piece of original sludge. In fact, after this, other than two more brief Cars covers, the rest of this album is their own, careering from one idea to the next. Ok, maybe except for Cherry Tomato that sounds like Stereo MCs or something. You get the idea, they're experimenting like it's the end of their career, which it was.

What's really interesting is the workouts on Untitled 2 where they are playing around with their own jazzy acid punk style. It is a sad moment when you consider where this album might have taken them and their audience next but
great work, chaps, shame so few have heard it.


To Be Kind (Bonus One DVD)
To Be Kind (Bonus One DVD)
Price: £18.75

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it IS very good, 16 May 2014
I've read enough pre-release/review journalese about Swans and this album (I'll avoid the excessive adjectives and track by track analysis which you can find everywhere else) so was pleased to get my signed copy in the post a couple of days ago to judge for myself. I was ambivalent about the album being much good as I had mixed feelings about the live funding album that preceded it: the tracks were enjoyable but didn't quite seize me. Equally, I had every faith.

Except perhaps for White Light and Love of Life, Swans albums are consistent mainly in their originality and difference from the previous offering. Of course it's unmistakably Swans. No longer a crooner and wailer, Gira belts out vocals and sounds with great confidence and, at the age of 60, seems to have all the time in the world to make music and let the creative force take him wherever it needs to go. At a more tangible level, the album seems to benefit from its Texan recording and the pedalled guitar sounds are fantastic; something of 16 Horsepower in some of them. And, true to Swans form, the album offers subtlety, noise, repetition and new challenges for the listener. The songs are long and the album exceeds 2 hours so we've been there before but the challenges lay in providing funky hooks in places and the addition of unsettling sounds in others: sawing, distressed horses and such!

You'll read things about Gira and god and there's certainly some element of spirituality in his art but whether it's religious or not is a whole other matter. His own description on the Young God website of playing with his band talks about immersion and the sound being bigger than them. It's about being drawn into something that is all-consuming and Gira does it for himself first and invites you to join in if you want. This album will draw you in or throw you out, depending on your artistic preferences.

Strongly recommended for those that crave originality and unusual composition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2014 5:14 PM BST


Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story
by Richard Bach
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.19

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Religious BirdPoo - A Crass Spiritual Fable - Contains Soilers, 19 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Oh dear. A few friends decided to read this and we came to a similiar conclusion. My specific take on it is as follows. Don't read it if you love the book or care about any 'soilers':

It's a short fable, ostensibly about a gull going against the common grain but finding his own way but being banished for it. The protagullist is then ostracised but he brings others about to his ways and forgives those who trespassed against him. He and his disciple gulls teach other gulls. Generations go on and the message gets distorted by others and the focus is more on banal conventions than on the original intention. Others doubt the modern teachings and lose sight of the higher meaning because of it. One tries to commit suicide and Jonathan Birdplop comes back to whisper kind words in his ear. Etc. It's so obvious it's insulting. I'm surprised it's taken as a personal development/self help book as the relgious overtones are overpowering in my view. To be honest, if you need a book like this to show you inspiration then you maybe missing the point: look around you and be inspired by those out there who really have pushed the boundaries and 'become themselves', famous or otherwise, in whatever they do.

It's simply written (which is fine), but badly written. In particular the temporal flow just doesn't work in such a short book, especially when characters change course. JLS deciding not to give in to the crowd and go his own way is so poorly handled and unconvincing; it really lacks credibility (and no I don't mean it's not realistic). The size of the book doesn't matter, it's what you do with it that counts.

The second point is about the message which is the narrow single-minded view that pervades some religions which is the following patronising assumption: the others are wrong, they don't know it yet bless them, they don't understand it, we'll forgive them and convert them over time. Yeuch.

The other irritation for me on a personal level is the fundamental intellectual flaw present in many religions: the Platonic realism that says that each thing represents an instance of some greater thing, in this case the Great Gull. People have a funny habit of seeing things this way, eg seeing good in lots of things and deciding that there is some idea of 'good' which is 'out there' and real. People then make their gods and, because people think in opposities, they make their demons too. A whole conceptual framework then arises in frightening proportions and generations get led up the garden path. However, it is the act of conceptualisation itself that makes us distinctly human, that is our ability to generalise through symbols which arises through a shared social experience. Without that, there are no gods to be conceived.

I don't seek to attack religion in general here but I do object to being patronised/converted and I do think this a strong message in this book, however well intended. And look where competing religious views have got us.


Divergent Series (Books 1-3) Plus Free Four, The Transfer and World of Divergent
Divergent Series (Books 1-3) Plus Free Four, The Transfer and World of Divergent
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divergent trilogy, 4 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These books are so good!!!I've just finished The last one and can't decide which one is my favourite! Would definitely recommend!!!!!!


The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The fault in our stars, 4 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My daughter says - I have just finished the fault in our stars by John Green and it is a really moving book. I laughed and cried at it and I will probably read it over again write now.


Paper Towns
Paper Towns
Price: £3.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Paper towns, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: Paper Towns (Kindle Edition)
My daughter says - this is the first book that I have ever read by John Green and I thought it was really interesting so hopefully I reading some more books by him.


Chocolate Box Girls: Bittersweet
Chocolate Box Girls: Bittersweet
Price: £1.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet, 21 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My daughter says - I really enjoyed this short book by cathy Cassidy and I hope she writes some more like this - by characters that are not the sisters. But like I said it is too short! I wish it was as long as her other books!


Chocolate Box Girls: Coco Caramel
Chocolate Box Girls: Coco Caramel
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Coco caramel, 21 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My daughter says - I really love cathy books and this is another great addition to the chocolate box series. I am REALLY looking forward to the next one!


Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: 25th Anniversary Edition
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: 25th Anniversary Edition
by Robert M. Pirsig
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Chilling Biography, 8 Jan. 2010
Unlike most books the plot is in the background and the deep stuff at the front yet, like most books, the good stuff lies behind. On second reading (after a 15+ year gap) I see this primarily as a haunting biography of a man struggling with his own mind - and how to relate to others, including his family. The story charts the troubles of a man who might today be diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome or something similar: cool, clever, analytical, precise, obsessive but sadly, he just doesn't get people - at all. The description of his relationship with his son is heart-rending - the narrator just doesn't get it, doesn't give him a hug, doesn't even see it. This is really what makes the book- the dad struggling with his own limitations and coolness and we can only suppose how close it is to the author's own difficult life. The philosophy at the front is the ostensible plot as he seeks to work himself through ancient problems. The book is one big gumption trap for the narrator - and Pirsig: he's stuck.

The philosophy, whilst thought-provoking, is very limited - even for when it was written. That's not a snobbish view although I have been exposed to a fair bit of philosophy and I enjoy exposing myself to the great thinkers - hold that pun. It's interesting that at the height of Wittgenstein's popularity that Pirsig either blocked him out or was so isolated in his thoughts he missed out on the benefits of 20th century European thinking. It's a not a fashion thing. Pirsig falls into the ancient trap that language simply represents the world and putting it under the metaphysical microscope to define it will solve all sorts of problems. It's disappointing, especially when he even dismisses another meaning of his central obsession, "quality" (this time a property of something, rather than its value), as some anomaly - he's so close to realising his mistake but he lets it go... The obsessive who wants the world to be just one way wins out. But language isn't like that - it's not that simple. The point is that words mean what they mean in use and to define "quality" as some abstract all-pervading thing is tail-chasing, or reification as the big boys call it. Hence the "exposed" gag (sorry, couldn't resist). This doesn't invalidate the book because the real point is not that he's coming up with some world-saving philosophy or that it's flawed thinking but that he's struggling to overturn his way of viewing the world. He construes it classically (rational, detailed, factual) on the one hand and romantically (in the moment, accepting, Zenny) on the other. This is just his view and his dilemma. To his mind, he's too classical and he needs to accept other worlds - of fun, emotion, and alternative explanation. The fact is some folk will never be interested in fixing bikes...

Whilst it's a shame Pirsig doesn't get to do the real radical thing and turn the whole analysis over and use it to chase down the ghosts of civilisation (`God' comes to mind), his struggle with it is fascinating and thought-provoking as well as frustrating. It's also deeply moving.


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