Back in 1988 I interviewed Swans in New York, an ardent fan of their noisenik, no wave early-80s fare like Raping A Slave. Frontman Michael Gira spent the interview disavowing noise as a rock strategy. From now on, it was all about acoustic guitars and songs. This was Swans’ new direction, culminating in the brief major-label foray of 1989’s The Burning World.
However, the experience proved disillusioning and Swans returned with White Light… and Love Of Life, two albums which synthesise the clarity of their middle period with the brutal density of their early work. These are masterly Swans albums, which, as is Gira’s lyrical wont, proceed remorselessly to the bottom of the human condition. ‘I want power because it feels good/I want power – I’ll wash America with blood,’ he intones with grim prescience on Power And Sacrifice.
On Love Of Life, brief instrumentals like broken cloud formations punctuate songs such as Identity, in which Gira reveals himself to be as dark a chronicler of the heart of Middle America as Johnny Cash. Meanwhile, he and singer/keyboardist Jarboe intersperse magnificently on She Cries (For Spider).