Swans Discography - 1983-2016

With the announcement of their 15th studio album Leaving Meaning today, I decided to rank and write some shorter reviews for each of Swans' past studio albums, from their debut Filth, to their most recent 2016 release, The Glowing Man. I haven't listened to all of these albums yet, so I'm going to start from Filth and work my way through the entire discography leading up to the release of their upcoming album, which I will give a full review of. Its extremely difficult to rank a band that has undergone so many drastic transformations, between stylistic developments and changes in line ups, so in the end it will mostly come down to personal preference. I'll review each of these one by one and release them on this page leading up to the release of the new album.

Leaving Meaning is set to release on the 25th of October, and you can listen to it's first single It's Coming, It's Real here.

Filth (1983)

Swans have had an interesting stylistic trajectory over the last 40 years, and listening to Filth in comparison to their later discography is a perfect example of this. This is an extremely heavy and ugly album. It’s aggressive, unpredictable and genuinely unsettling to listen to, with some of the most vitriolic, disturbing and brutal sounds I have ever heard. It’s clear this thing was made on a budget, with some limitations, such as the song Big Strong Boss ending abruptly because the band had reportedly run out of tape at the time, however despite this the album has some pretty incredible production, not to mention some extremely abrasive and interesting instrumentation. A lot of the songs have this really off-putting rhythm to them which make it extremely difficult to place whether or not they are being swung or not, and Michael Gira’s ever cryptic lyrics and harsh performance is the driving force and heart of the project. This is one of Swans’ shortest albums, and probably their least subtle, but there is a lot to admire here. Some notable standouts are the opening track Stay Here, Power for Power, and Right Wrong. The brutal and relentless performance from Gira on top of the violent and surprisingly tight instrumentals are what makes Filth a mesmerising experience – something that persists throughout Swans’ discography no matter what genres they shift between.


Cop (1984)

Something you’ll notice about Swans’ discography is that they seem to make albums in pairs stylistically. Greed and Holy Money are thematically a continuation of each other, as well as White Light from the Mouth of Infinity and Love of Life. Similarly, Cop is very much a complementary album to its predecessor Filth, sharing the same slow, heavy, abusive instrumentals and unsettling lyricism. I do prefer Filth as it has a more interesting sense of rhythm than Cop does, and for the most part this album does just feel like more of the same as Filth. This isn’t really a huge issue, but considering the intense multiple metamorphoses the band would undergo in the following decades, this does make Cop feel a little less significant in the shadow of its predecessor. On its own however, this is another great, brutal no-wave album by swans. Half life is an excellent opening track, followed by Job, which has echoes of Jim Morrison’s spoken word passages, which were a heavy inspiration for much of Gira’s work. For the most part, this is a slower album than Filth, but is still incredibly abrasive, violent and gritty. Cop is more of the same for Swans, but at the time it solidified them as one of the heaviest and most unique bands to emerge from the no-wave scene in 1980s New York.


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