7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Flawed compilation of a truly great band,
This review is from: Various Failures 1988 - 1992 (Audio CD)
If ever a band were crying out for the exhaustitive box set treatment it's The Swans( along with Fatima Mansions, Microdisney, The Young Gods, Big Black, American Music Club amongst others) Their two most monumentally brilliant albums "The Burning World" and "White Light At The Mouth Of Infinity " are only available on CD at ridiculously inflated prices and their transition from amoral totalitarian noise merchants to purveyors of luxuriant yet doom laden folkies is one of the most compelling in modern music. This double CD is the only overview of their career, yet it's frustratingly incomplete with some bewildering omissions though this being The Swans the quality quotient is still admirably high.
What are on here are panoramic vistas of "Better Than You ", "Will We Survive" "Why Are We Alive?" "Miracle Of Love" supplemented by plunging bass lines, cavernous percussion, gasping strings and exotic textures. Michael Giras, s portentous stentorian vocals grumble convincingly about tears, blackened skies, and failure. This is not happy music but neither is it laughably grumpy and true beauty is offered by Jarboe who provides sumptuous backing vocals and quite stunning lead vocals on tracks "I Remember Who You Are" and "Can, t Find My Way Home" and in doing so gives a comprehensive lesson to diva warblers on how to sing ballads properly with convincing emotion and feeling.
The omissions are very frustrating .No "Saved" or "The River That Runs With Love It Never Runs Dry" from "The Burning World". No "Celebrity Lifestyle" from "The Great Annihilator ", nor the pounding title track from "Love Of Life". These are surely superior to tracks like "Was He Ever Alive?" or "Identity" and definitely preferable to the various brief instrumental interludes that adorn side one. But Gira is nothing if not perverse and at least the truly glorious "Love Will Save You" and the jaw droppingly bleak "God Damm The Sun" are included. By the way the reviewer who lists the superb "Mona Lisa, Mother Earth" as being on the album is alas mistaken, at least as far as my copy is concerned.
A great band The Swans, but this two disc compilation comes nowhere near encapsulating their brilliance or their diversity .Like I said before a box set really is the only way to do them justice, and one including their Skin incarnation and one including all the horrid -yet sometimes thrilling -early noisy stuff. Until then this album while providing music of breathtaking quality should be considered something of a failure and my tears of frustration continue to fall from charcoal skies.....or something like that.