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5.0 out of 5 stars Swans - Cop: terrifying and, strangely, beautiful., 21 Oct 2013
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: COP/YOUNG GOD/GREED/HOLY MONEY (Audio CD)
SWANS: COP

I've read and enjoyed Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles reviews of both this compilation, and a previous CD comp of Cop/Young God. I'm leaving this review not as a review of this whole compilation - which I'm just ordering now, and consequently haven't heard yet (though I own all the music on vinyl) - but as an alternate and, I hope, very different response, albeit equally positive, to this amazing music.

Many years ago I was in a short lived group with some friends at sixth-form who were into Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, Enisturzende Neubauten, and all sorts of other stuff similar to or connected to such bands. What's often (or is that just sometimes?) called the post-punk/no wave scene. I must admit that, whilst I liked some of these bands and their music enough to stick with the group for the brief period in which it existed, it wasn't really my scene, man.

Some of the recordings that really reached me in the truly primal unmediated way I like best - and ordinarily at that time that might have been anything from a sweet bossa nova, like let's say 'Quite Nights Of Quiet Stars', by Jobim, to 'Pachuco Cadaver' by Beefheart, Joni Mitchell's 'Little Green' or 'Criminally Insane' by Slayer - were the early records by Swans. I think that was for several reasons, some of which I'll go into in a mo', but possibly chiefly because, as numerous critics and fans have pointed out, this is simply music like no other.

The sheer raw power of the music, and the brutal darkness of Gira's lyrics, are frequently alluded to in descriptions of this music, but there are a few things that I particularly like that I don't feel are usually mentioned. One of these is that - and ok, granted, the lyrics are pretty horrifying - quite a lot of the music has a bizarrely beautiful quality, at least for me, deriving from two factors: its sheer intensity, and the fact it is so unique. Another element is that, for all that it is unrelenting, dark, and brutally minimal, yet there's a note of looseness and improvisation - jazz seems hardly the word, but those are qualities that jazz prides itself on having at its heart.

The loose improv element is most apparent in the incredible drumming of Roli Mosimann, easily the best drummer The Swans ever had, in my view. Also the production has an incredible clarity that stops it dating. Comparing the brutally raw and unprocessed sound here to the compressed and reverb drenched drums of '80's Sonic Youth makes the latter sounds far more dated. Easy-listening this ain't, and I can generally only take it in little doses these days.

Opening track Half-Life and closing track Thug (opening and closing the original Cop LP, not this comp) are, I think, the moments I dig the most. Slow grinding riffs, bass and guitar locking into huge but minimal slabs of raw distorted sound, and the drums crunching away, but just occasionally showing an inventively syncopated edge, and all moving in an intense slow-motion. Most so-called heavy music sounds like the froth on a weak lager compared with these numbers. And lyrically heavy metal and associated dark/intense genres tend to be utter garbage, kind of prurient teen horror movie type stuff. The darkness of the lyrics here is of an entirely different order.

But Holy $**t, Cop is an amazing and intense ride for the ears, the mind, and the emotions! There really is nothing quite like it. Turn it up loud, and prepare to be terrified, mesmerised, but perhaps also moved, and maybe even awestruck. For me this recording alone makes the whole package that I'm submitting this review for worth the price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Power Madness, 19 Dec 2012
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: COP/YOUNG GOD/GREED/HOLY MONEY (Audio CD)
A collection of three platters plus an EP. Discs containing some of the most triumphal, blasted and racked personal insights; linked not to the usual musical malaise of boy meets girl. Instead these are surging psychological portrayals of brutal power operating downwards.

Drop from the end of a rope and then face the silent abyss; finally the pained self reflection of this record will clearly materialise. Lyrics viewed within the continual master/slave dialectical, as this signposts the scarier way to a deeper exploration of the dark side of the swinging room. Turn on the light whilst the chords tighten around the neck then view the corner where the beaten child cowers awaiting yet another blasted boot from the steel toe cap of another supreme power: Light up the American Beauty.

All the "tunes" are slabs of industrial pistons slowly grinding the body into fine pieces of calciated dust. The first piece; cut directly from the bone is pure masculine muscle and gristle lying on the slab. Eventually it becomes lighter towards the end of the reverie, as the lyrics become infused with a feminine sweetness, the sound of a nightingale after its eyes have been plucked out. As the production values increased a notch, a space entered within the blasts of percussed drilled noise. The lyrics meanwhile deal with the mind set of the victim turned perpetrator. There are so many highlights such as "Your Property" "Cop" "Why hide," "Butcher."

This album is beyond nearly all standard forms of the "industrial" genre. It inhabits an ubermensch world of the literal young gods. Set next to the worlds of De Sade, Junger, Kafka, Celine, Selby and the music of Neubauten, Test Dept, Laibach, Young Gods and Lydia Lunch rather than any other space of testosterone head fiddlers .

It lies also on another linear path of self reflection incorporating Krafft Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Stekel, and Adler, garnered together to unpick the corpse of the machine world, to reveal the inner workings of emotional power.

As the nightingale lilts a siren sound to Blackmail a bitter sweet lullabye spews out, an antidote to the Stupid Child; the gruesome bark of the critical parent who only coos the modern mantra of "Time is Money."
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COP/YOUNG GOD/GREED/HOLY MONEY
COP/YOUNG GOD/GREED/HOLY MONEY by Swans (Audio CD - 2010)
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