Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Love of Life
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
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Awesome showcase of their strange magic
Pieter | Johannesburg | 08/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1992 album appeared right in the middle of the legendary band's most productive period. The release of Children of God in 1987 marked a new direction for Gira & co. The works that followed were all special or extraordinary in some way or another. Burning World of 1989 was their melodious überfolk excursion; Ten Songs for Another World of 1990 by side-project World of Skin perfected their take on the torch song whilst on the next year's White Light from the Mouth of Infinity they had found the ideal blend of rock & torch.
Compared to the aforementioned, Love of Life is a work of pure power rock. There are beautiful ballads like The Golden Boy that was Swallowed by the Sea, The Other Side of the World & No Cure for the Lonely as well as atmospheric pieces like Her and Identity but the most prominent songs are the fast-tempo title track, enthused with the defiant exuberance of pounding drums & propulsive rhythms, The Sound of Freedom which is the most formidable marriage of rock & poetry since Patti Smith, as well as Amnesia & In The Eyes of Nature.
Michael gives a tender treatment to The Golden Boy That Was Swallowed By The Sea with its soulful lyrics and addictive tune, making it probably one of their most appealing and accessible songs ever. Track number 5 is an instrumental with a recorded male voice talking about hunting & shooting deer; yes it may appear odd in this company but in fact it fits & enhances the mood in some inexplicable way. Next it's Jarboe turn on a ballad, the magical and melodious The Other Side of the World.
In places the sound reminds me somewhat of The Burning World's eastern influences but amplified hugely with more emphasis on rock guitars & drums. Fascinating snippets of sound and vocal samples, especially on the untitled tracks 1, 4, 5, 9, 12 & 16 add to the mood, but the first of two outstanding experimental atmospheric tracks is titled Her. Michael's dreamy lullaby-like introductory singing is followed by a harsh & intrusive rock interlude that suddenly gives way to the voice of a teenage girl talking about summer, her boyfriend Charlie, the Atlanta International & Monterrey pop festivals, musicians like Janis Joplin, The Who and The Grateful Dead, with radio commercials from 1967 and static noise in the background. This version is not the same as the one on the live album Omniscience.
The second rock masterpiece, The Sound of Freedom, was inexplicably excluded from the Various Failures 1988-1992 compilation, so this will be its eternal resting place. A mid-tempo rock song, it has some of the majesty of The Most Unfortunate Lie from White Light from the Mouth of Infinity and some of the urgency of this album's title track, plus a powerful hypnotic momentum & enigmatic but haunting imagery with a spiritual undertone.
The rock song Amnesia is followed by another slice of weirdness called Identity. According to the sleeve notes the narrator is Adam Jankowski; he's still a child here, reciting the sublime symbolism & mesmeric metaphors of this metaphysical poem over a melodic mid-tempo backing track with humming voices and the occasional tortured word or phrase by a heavily distorted male vocal. The spooky tone suggests a séance or some sort of attempt to communicate from realms unknown. Scary stuff indeed, calling to mind the uncanny children's voices in The Most Unfortunate Lie and the films Badlands & Deep Red.
Jarboe gently breathes life into the mid-tempo gem She Cries (For Spider), setting in motion a chain of voices on this enchanting rock ballad so exquisitely arranged upon layered, overlapping & multitracked vocals that weave a magical matrix as they harmonically resonate while multiplying. Then one hears Michael in pensive mood on the slow and introspective God loves America, after which Jarboe tries with gentle reassurances to soothe some species of animal that makes a range of hair-rising sounds - from twittering to human-like wails - over a jittery percussive background.
Michael concludes the album with the achingly beautiful acoustic number No Cure for the Lonely of which the theme encompasses subjects as diverse as romantic love, guilt, relationships, the atomizing desire so eloquently expressed by that Scandinavian actress who said: "I vunt to be alone," disgust towards religious claims of absolute certainty & writings that restrict the mind, both of them suffocating burdens feeding a disillusionment that sinks to ever deeper levels as people perceive themselves trapped in cyclical time & action.
This is what Dylan meant in the words of Every Grain of Sand: "Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake/Like Cain I now behold this chain of events that I must break." Thus it ends on a melancholy but human note, unlike Gira's disturbing 1995 solo album with its overt malevolence. I prefer the honest expression of frailty & fragility so this vulnerable Gira on No Cure for the Lonely means more & matters much more than all the Drainlands, Body Lovers & Haters put together. Spiritually downcast, drained & desolate but human still, thus silently, invisibly & unknowingly embraced by the Everlasting Arms. Mercifully Angels of Light, Gira's post-Swans project, took this musical direction.
#1 Swans album
Stonelove | NV | 06/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are trying to find out about the Swans and which album(s) to buy, I'm here to help you. I discovered the Swans about 7 years ago. I was intrigued by snippets of their music and also by the story of Gira's life. Now I am a complete Swans junkie - can't get enough of them and I continue to seek all their albums far and wide.
So if you feel as I once did - interested, but stymied by the paucity of info on the band - then let me save you hundreds of hours of time. Here is my opinion of how the albums rank:
1. Love of Life - The peak of the Gira/Jarboe collaboration. The first half is so good, it boggles the mind. The triplet of "Other side of the world", "Her" and "Sound of Freedom" is almost too much to take. The latter two are my all-time favorite Swans songs. "Her" encapsulates their music perfectly: beauty and majesty juxtaposed with violence and evil - just like life. The [...]review will confuse you. They give this album only 3 stars, yet the text calls it a masterpiece. Don't be fooled, this is 5 stars all the way. If you are at all interested in the band, then you must track this disc down.
2. White light from the mouth of infinity - Overall, similar in style to Love of Life, just not as many gems. But this album has two songs that are indispensable: "Will we survive" and "Song for the sun".
3. The Great Annihilator - The most accessible Swans album, and easiest to find. Even my local library had a copy! This may be their most "commercial" album, with "Celebrity Lifestyle" perhaps as close to pop as they can come. But don't let this deter you. The songs are consistently strong and this album will reap rewards with multiple listenings. "Mind/body/light/sound", "Warm" and "Where does a body end?" are the highlights.
4. Children of God - This is one that critics usually say is their best album. Of course there are some strong tracks (New Mind, Beautiful Child) but I don't find myself gong back to this album as I do the others. If you choose this one as the first Swans album to get, and you are not familiar with their history, then it may be a bit overwhelming inasmuch as it still reflects their harsh early period.
5. Public castration is a good idea - Have you ever listened to music that is truly frightening and unnerving? Listening to this album is akin to directly facing the horrors in life. Many of us go about our lives pretending that the violence, depravity, and evil inflicted by the human race does not exist. When you look into the abyss, this is the sound that results. A powerful and brutal testament to an artist's willingness to reveal his soul completely. How many of us would dare to do that?
6. Soundtracks for the blind - This one is ambitious - 2 discs of ambient and drone-driven tracks. Some are amazing, but the album is quite a commitment and, unfortunately, it doesn't hold one's interest consistently. You need to be in the right mood and ready to immerse yourself for a couple hours.
7. The Burning World - Another somewhat disappointing album. Overproduced, it veers too close to "world music" territory - yikes. Still, "Cant find my way home" and "Saved" are keepers.
8. Omniscience - Songs are stripped down considerably here and are fleshed out to longer running times. But this seems to also deprive them of their power. Some will argue that they are more powerful, but this will be a matter of preference. If you're new to Swans, then don't start here or other live albums - few would argue with that.
This list is obviously not complete. I omitted the bulk of early period Swans because these will appeal to even fewer people than the later stuff. Most of the live albums would be sought by those already enamored of the studio records. Hope this helps. I usually don't write reviews but I decided to contribute to the Swans since there is so little commentary on Amazon."
Blood is love
Andreas Faust | Tasmanian Autonomous Zone | 01/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of the Swans albums I have heard, 'Love of Life' is absolutely my favourite. The title track alone makes this worth purchasing, an ode to life and vitality which some might find surprising coming from Michael Gira, who has a reputation as a 'negative' songwriter...but this album highlights how wrong that view is. His songwriting is multifaceted, and in a just world he would have received more recognition for this.
The album is essentially Nietzschean in outlook, a bittersweet pride and affirmation of existence in a world Gira sees as ultimately meaningless. In 'The Sound of Freedom' he sings of the emptiness of a "bright white sky", yet freedom in this empty universe is still shown as something beautiful. The white light that signifies emptiness also brings ecstasy. I won't comment here on the value or otherwise of this kind of philosophy, only that Gira sings with a deep feeling and conviction worthy of respect, whatever your worldview might be.
Jarboe only sang a couple of tracks on this album, but they are brilliant and can be counted among her most breathtaking performances. 'The Other Side of the World' is sensuous and dreamlike, while the warm, bright vocals on 'She Crys (For Spider)' are addressed to those who are dragged down by the plastic ugliness of the modern world and its "deadeyed souls" who've "spent their lives." There is also an overtly political song ('God Loves America'), rare for Gira, but devastating in its scathing attacks on pollution and overpopulation, and the shallow nature of mass culture.
The texture of the music is amazing, and one can really get lost in it. A lot is going on at all levels, both above the surface and below it. Sophisticated yet sublimely simple, Swans' 'Love of Life' is a masterpiece plain and pure."