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Swans - The Great Annihilator album review

New York’s no-wave heroes give the mid-90s a polish

Few veteran artists revisit their back catalogues with the same degree of care and precision that Michael Gira has shown in recent times. As with other Swans reissues, this elegant new edition of the New York band’s ninth album exudes an almost alarming attention to detail, not least in the sparkling clarity and oomph of the remastering. First unveiled in 1995, The Great Annihilator has often been overlooked, adrift in the nebulous period between Swans’ early-90s creative high and the monstrous finality of 1996’s Soundtracks For The Blind, but in truth it’s one of Gira’s most focused statements. The lurching and venomous Celebrity Lifestyle and Killing For Company’s seat-edge seven minutes are among Swans’ most devastating moments: the former a weirdly catchy no-wave hoedown, the latter an object lesson in sonic unease.

As if the main album wasn’t mesmerising enough, this reissue comes with Gira’s astonishing Drainland solo album as a welcome bonus. A stripped down but typically intense affair, it was originally released six months after the main event and the connection between the two is self-evident. It ends with the woozy warmth of Blind, which could well be the closest thing Gira has written to a pop song.