Swans - _Soundtracks for the Blind_
(Young God Records, 1996)
by: Andrew Lewandowski (8 out of 10)
My readers, please do not view this as a plea simply intended to arouse sympathy, but how can I attempt to properly review this album, particularly considering CoC's admittedly minute spatial constraints? _Soundtracks for the Blind_ is no mere album; this is a two-disc, two and a half hour monster. Departing from their recent hybrid of folk and "experimental" rock, the Swans have rebounded from several utterly mediocre albums to create this, their most diverse effort to date. Each song is vastly different from the previous track. Despite the apparent diversity and juxtaposition of live and studio tracks, the songs retain a similar mood and sound, evading incoherence. Hints of guitars, both acoustic and electric, are sprinkled throughout, but _Soundtracks..._ relies on a suffocating, keyboard-driven ambiance and various collected sounds to create a horrifying vision, suffused with anger and melancholy. The vocals of band mastermind Michael Gira are, as always, the perfect match for the music, even if they are used a bit too sparingly; his emotional wails and gothic vocals can send shivers down the listener's spine. As always, his lyrics are mocking, and representative of the darkest side of human existence; the various forms of submissiveness are his popular theme throughout _Soundtracks_ (BTW, his book, entitled _The Consumer_, is worth a read). Unfortunately, Gira's female counterpart, Jarboe, once again rears her obtrusive head. Her three compositions all sound undeniably out of place, particularly "Volcano", which is destroyed by a cheesy hip-hop beat in the background. Also, the more restrained studio version of "YRP", the highlight of _Die Tur Ist Zu_, an album released earlier this year in preparation for _Soundtracks_, lacks the haunting cries that Jarboe wailed on its predecessor, and thus falls somewhat flat. Still, these are only 4 out of 26 tracks; not much irreparable harm is done. My only other complaint is a most lamentable one; this is the Swans final studio album. A shame, as this is their best album since 1986's _Greed_, and showcases the musical direction that the band should have followed after the aforementioned album.

(article published 2/1/1997)


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