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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender & tuneful masterpiece
The Burning World pays tribute to author Paul Bowles as is evident from titles like Let It Come Down and the mention of "sheltering sky" in the lyrics of Saved. The album is a classic by default; the artists were of the opinion that producer Bill Laswell didn't understand what they wished to achieve, hence their problematic view of The Burning World.

Still it...
Published on 24 Mar 2005 by Pieter Uys

versus
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A kind of guarantee
I love Michael Gira's music and I trust him completely.

The existence of this record, which is a terrible mistake he made in 1989 that I am absolutely sure he will never repeat, is a guarantee, in a way, of his future integrity.

My advice is to avoid this record, but to try to make sure that before you die you have listened to everything else he has...
Published 5 months ago by Graham


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender & tuneful masterpiece, 24 Mar 2005
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Burning World (Audio CD)
The Burning World pays tribute to author Paul Bowles as is evident from titles like Let It Come Down and the mention of "sheltering sky" in the lyrics of Saved. The album is a classic by default; the artists were of the opinion that producer Bill Laswell didn't understand what they wished to achieve, hence their problematic view of The Burning World.

Still it is a work of great beauty. As far as accessibility goes, this is the one Swans work that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people with different musical tastes - from the Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Joy Division fan to those who love atmospheric rock or eastern-influenced world music sounds.

Swans gave up the ghost in the late 90s with an awesome legacy in their own albums and side-projects like World of Skin. An acquired taste, the band has on various albums explored extreme emotions and extreme music. This gentle, melodious album also has its moments of intensity like the devastating God Damn The Sun where Michael Gira out-Cohens Leonard on a tale of despair with a twirling seductive tune.

Another breathtaking track is their interpretation of Steve Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home, hypnotically and spookily sung by Jarboe over the eerie instrumentation, as is I Remember Who You Are which turns Jarboe's expressive voice into a medium of tenderness, empathy and reassurance. The melodious track Saved with its spiritual undertone is another highlight.

Swans' early 1980s work explored harsh sounds via the industrial/extreme heavy metal route, Children of God (1987) blended softness & severity, Love Of Life & White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (both 1991) & Great Annihilator (1995) provided powerful guitar rock and Soundtracks For The Blind (1996) investigated the drone & atmospheric electronic avenues.

This 1989 album is a masterpiece of über-folk. Judged on the quality of the melodies, the vocals & the sound, The Burning World is an enduring classic. Fans of Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Richard Thompson, Peter Murphy, Velvet Underground, Nico, Nick Drake, Nick Cave and similar artists will do themselves a huge favor by acquiring this shimmering masterpiece. Michael Gira has been pursuing a similar sonic path with his post-Swans project Angels of Light.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tuneful, kinder & gentler Gira (on the surface), 25 July 2008
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Burning World (Audio CD)
The Burning World pays tribute to author Paul Bowles as is evident from titles like Let It Come Down and the mention of "sheltering sky" in the lyric of Saved. It's a work of great beauty and wide accessibility, being the one Swans work that ought to appeal to musical tastes ranging from Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Joy Division to the fans of atmospheric rock and even eastern-influenced world music.

The style has been called über-folk; acoustics guitars and strings - violin, viola and cello - are prominent while the tabla is one of the main contributors to the engaging rhythmic textures. Judging by the quality of the melodies, lyrics and arrangements, The Burning World is one of the most outstanding works of the 1980s.

Swans mark I disbanded in the late 90s with an impressive legacy of own albums and side-projects like World of Skin. An acquired taste, the band has on various albums explored extreme emotions through extreme music.

Their early 1980s work explored harsh industrial/extreme heavy metal sounds, then Children of God (1987) blended softness & severity whilst Love Of Life & White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (both 1991) & Great Annihilator (1995) provided powerful guitar rock and Soundtracks For The Blind (1996) investigated the drone & atmospheric electronics.

Underneath the tuneful songs and gentle delivery of Burning World runs an undercurrent of melancholia and desolation which turns to utter despair on the devastating God Damn The Sun where Michael Gira out-Cohens Leonard on a tale of woe set to a churning seductive tune.

Hauntingly sung by Jarboe, their cover of Steve Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home equals their two interpretations of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Jarboe's tremulous vocals reinforce the oneiric feel of I Remember Who You Are whilst the tabla lends a hypnotic quality to Mona Lisa, Mother Earth. The beautiful lilting love song Saved blends the wry and the romantic in an arresting way.

After the demise of Swans, Michael Gira would explore terrain not too far removed from The Burning World in his Angels of Light project which created masterpieces like New Mother and How I Loved You.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Corp Hore, 2 Sep 2010
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Burning World (Audio CD)
Fell to earth with a resounding thud when first released; neutered. Latterly it has stood up, shook itself and revealed itself as somewhat missing the hanging basket of old, whilst wandering around without a purpose, also caught between different audience expectations. Probably more to do with my musical taste and perception, but also it was the impact of being "signed." Making classic records no one hears saps morale, the paradox is when the big label beckons it becomes a date with the devil.

Megabucks Corp want a return on the deal. This means playing to pre-established profiled audiences. Experimentation is out, harsh dynamics erased and instead softness, no clashing tones; soporific music for daytime airtime consumption is the template, to be played next to Bruce, Cars and co.

Michael and Jarboe signed in blood, then made an attempt to water down and crawl into the corporate world, whilst keeping their heads high. An opening into the magi world of the cascading lava flows of snow business. Meanwhile Michael's flat world alienated baritone booms from the pit of his acidic lined stomach, with his sonic tones coated in the slatherings of liver duct bile; except all turned down a notch, but still it was far too much to sell holidays in the Seychelles

Love and loss echo through empty caverns of a silent clanging rib cage throughout this album, as it builds in layers, to blast an existential howl shaped by the jawbone into sheer nihilism.

As counter relief, Jarboe soars and dips with the elegance of a canary trapped in the talons of a hawk. The musical palette is a pot pourri of middle eastern instrumentation creating a variety of slow builds, allowing Michael to introspect on life. Eddies lying still far from the main stream, as this rushes forward to a black funereal march coated into a blanket of a loss of meaning.

In retrospect, due to a gaping chasmic hole, the creative death of music long mourned and gone, this echoes with moments of the sublime. Pouring from the speakers are the sounds of flood water ripping from a waterfall, the instrumentation sparkles in the cones of a decent system. Crystal clear, bubbling as froth, still slightly over done, compared to Swans pre corp and post, but as a stand alone album it has its own sense of beauty.

The Swans eventually returned to a new path, continuing to deliver further masterpieces all on their own terms but unfortunately few people heard them. They resided next to Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Iggy and "TG in 1976."

Now, no David Bowie resuscitates the fallow genius. No punk rock energises with any lightening bolt to blast out creativity. Just masses of identikit products line up to play their toned down middle range lumberjack shirted purp to youths who wander round in circles.

For those who wish to dig deeper this is the first layer on a musical journey. Easily digested as Hors d'oeuvre you will finally be ready, buzzing with anticipation for the main course, the rest of the collection wrapped up as a severed head.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse and Beautiful, 17 Nov 2008
By 
D. Newton (Swindon, Wilts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Burning World (Audio CD)
Back in the late 1980s, when there was precious little crossover between underground and mainstream music, how Swans were picked up by MCA on the back of intense and sometimes terrifyingly uncompromising albums like `Greed', Holy Money' and `Children of God' remains a mystery. But they were and `The Burning World', Gira's only work for a major label, was the surprising result.

Surprising in more ways than one, because although the album's predecessor, `Children of God', showed a broader musical pallet than some of the band's sparsely brutal earlier work, the richness of sound on display here is a revelation. On `The Burning World' Swans go far beyond the average rock template and incorporate a heady blend of strings, tablas, bazoukis and other exotic instruments in the mix which strives for melody as never before.

At its most successful, the album is absolutely beautiful. `The River That Runs With Love...' opens with an aching melody and wonderful violin. `Saved' is a powerful yet catchy anthem and Jarboe's vocals have never sounded better as she takes the lead on the gorgeously melancholic `Can't Find My Way Home' and `I Remember Who You Are'. The chilling `God Damn The Sun' is one of Gira's finest and a brilliant closing track.

So why, then, in retrospect, does Michael Gira apparently have little regard for the record? The answer would seem to lie in Bill Laswell's production which, in places, seems a little too bright and shiny; slick even. Also, Gira's vocals sound quite unlike those on other Swans record; forced and overly monotone for the most part. You almost get the impression that he is trying too hard to please his major label paymasters and feels that he is compromising his artistic integrity a little. Interestingly though, as mentioned Jarboe's singing is superb without exception and really seems to rise to the style of the music as both a lead and backing vocalist. The songwriting is not of the highest order throughout; a couple of tracks are less than outstanding e.g. `Mona Lisa Mother Earth' and `See No More' fall a bit flat.

So, to summarise, an unusual and highly interesting record, very good but not excellent, a real divider of opinion amongst Swans fan but a must-own for all who are interested in the work of Michael Gira, one of America's greatest songwriters and performing artists.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Swans discover tunes, 20 Jun 2004
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Burning World (Audio CD)
Once upon a time listening to the Swans was about as enjoyable as sticking knitting needles in your ears and the effect was often the same. Relentless pulverising beats without the vicarious thrill that a band like say Big Black could give you. Also without the warped humour of The Butthole Surfers, this was bleak humourless fare. Up until this album the Swans were industrial noise-nicks you lump in with Skinny Puppy and Front 242etc."Time is Money (B******)" was the rape scene in "Irreversible" set to music. Then out of nowhere came "The Burning World" and although the world view is obstensively still as bleak as ever suddenly it's set to a gorgeous lush musical landscapes. A couple of the songs actually feature la la, s. Gira goes pop. "Burning World" is The Swans in collision with The Chills while the Waterboys look on.
And goddam as Gira would say, if there isn't a little optimism in here. Opening track "The River that runs with love won't run dry" is a statement in itself. But add in the warm washes of violin and perfectly picked guitar notes with Jarboes honeyed backing vocals and you have a song so uplifting Westlife could cover it...if they had any taste ....or talent.
"Let it come down" is more like old style Swans. "I will drown in flames" sings Gira portentously in his cavernous vocals to a stumbling deluge of charcoal bass, percussion and wheezing strings. Jarboe sings a beautiful version of Steve Winwoods "Can't find my way home" backed by tabla, mournful strings and random guitar notes sprinkled like diamonds on a tar pit. The tabla provides rhythmic propulsion to "Mona Lisa(Mother Earth)" with suitably eerie backing vocals. "Saved" is another song suffused with uncharacteristic hope. It has a sumptuous melody, twinkling guitars and more opulent backing from Jarboe., who sings wonderfully again on "I Remember who you are" a string smothered ballad of fevered brow intensity. On "Jane Mary cry one tear", "Everything is a cause for sorrow" which may explain the funereal arrangement something it shares with the pitch black (She's a )Universal Emptiness", while "See no more" is two paced, starting with urgent spiky guitars and tumbling percussion until Giras vocals pull in the reins." See our sun go black because we made one mistake" he grumbles. It ends with ardent tipples of bazouki before "Goddam the Sun", a ballad of jaw dropping bleakness with contradictory fervent strokes of guitar and strings.
Overall despite the inevitable themes of death, despair and torpor this is musically a rich and textured album, with many moments and songs of outstanding beauty. Don,t let the granite faced disposition of Mr Gira fool you. Within him sit's a heart that beats in time with the rest of us. His world may be burning but he's prepared to concede that for us it may still be a place of hope and wonder.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse and Beautiful Music, 29 Aug 2007
By 
D. Newton (Swindon, Wilts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Burning World (Audio CD)
Back in the late 1980s, when there was precious little crossover between underground and mainstream music, how Swans were picked up by MCA on the back of intense and sometimes terrifyingly uncompromising albums like `Greed', Holy Money' and `Children of God' remains a mystery. But they were and `The Burning World', Gira's only work for a major label, was the surprising result.

Surprising in more ways than one, because although the album's predecessor, `Children of God', showed a broader musical pallet than some of the band's sparsely brutal earlier work, the richness of sound on display here is a revelation. On `The Burning World' Swans go far beyond the average rock template and incorporate a heady blend of strings, tablas, bazoukis and other exotic instruments in the mix which strives for melody as never before.

At its most successful, the album is absolutely beautiful. `The River That Runs With Love...' opens with an aching melody and wonderful violin. `Saved' is a powerful yet catchy anthem and Jarboe's vocals have never sounded better as she takes the lead on the gorgeously melancholic `Can't Find My Way Home' and `I Remember Who You Are'. The chilling `God Damn The Sun' is one of Gira's finest and a brilliant closing track.

So why, then, in retrospect, does Michael Gira apparently have little regard for the record? The answer would seem to lie in Bill Laswell's production which, in places, seems a little too bright and shiny; slick even. Also, Gira's vocals sound quite unlike those on other Swans record; forced and overly monotone for the most part. You almost get the impression that he is trying too hard to please his major label paymasters and feels that he is compromising his artistic integrity a little. Interestingly though, as mentioned Jarboe's singing is superb without exception and really seems to rise to the style of the music as both a lead and backing vocalist. The songwriting is not of the highest order throughout; a couple of tracks are less than outstanding e.g. `Mona Lisa Mother Earth' and `See No More' fall a bit flat.

So, to summarise, an unusual and highly interesting record, very good but not excellent, a real divider of opinion amongst Swans fan but a must-own for all who are interested in the work of Michael Gira, one of America's greatest songwriters and performing artists.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why review Swans?, 27 Mar 2011
By 
B. B. Claussen "Tyr" (Highland,Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Your town is on fire,everybody is dead or run away,the world is coming to an end and you're stuck in a rubbish bin hoping for a quick death,this is THE sound track for it.Micheal gira's deadpan voice fits with anybodys end of the world scenario,his ex-missus on the other hand posesses a quality to her voice that makes me want to listen to her again and again.Not many people can make a Traffic song sound better than Traffic but it happens here.I'm not a person to write a review about Swans,because I like them too much,but this could be liked by anyone that's got a feel for tunes and nice harmonies with depressing words thrown in for good measure.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 July 2014
This review is from: The Burning World [VINYL] (Vinyl)
it is so nice!
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A kind of guarantee, 29 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Burning World (Audio CD)
I love Michael Gira's music and I trust him completely.

The existence of this record, which is a terrible mistake he made in 1989 that I am absolutely sure he will never repeat, is a guarantee, in a way, of his future integrity.

My advice is to avoid this record, but to try to make sure that before you die you have listened to everything else he has ever recorded, as loud as is practically possible.

ADDENDUM

Somebody just marked this review as 'unhelpful', which made me realise I didn't actually explain my reasons for disliking the record.

It's the production.

The songs themselves are no doubt sound, but the imposition of lush, commercial, eighties production values has all but obliterated the qualities that make Swans attractive to me.

I actually find listening to this record makes me feel a bit queasy, as if somebody had diluted my favourite Montepulciano with Fanta.

As I say, the pieces themselves are probably sound. Gira rarely comes up with a bad musical idea. But there's no way of telling with the record as it stands.

I gather from other reviewers that Gira dislikes the record himself. It would be interesting if Swans were to re-mix or even re-record the whole album now, in the way they wish it had been done originally.

There is precedent for that.

In 2006, Tomas Kalnoky's excellent ska-punk band Streetlight Manifesto painstakingly re-recorded the entire 'Keasbey Nights' album by his old band Catch-22 because he was unhappy with the 1998 original, which the record company wanted to re-issue.

Personally I'm not sure that was really warranted. But that's another story.

ANOTHER ADDENDUM

Several more people have now marked this review as 'unhelpful'. But the fact remains that I genuinely dislike this record, and others probably will too.

I've tried here to explain exactly why that is, as clearly, honestly and charitably as I can.

What more can I do? Do you want me to lie?
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect condition, 19 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Burning World (Vinyl)
Album was hand delivered to ensure it was received in time for my husband's birthday. Record is in perfect condition, great value for money. One happy hubby!
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