Swans are an American experimental rock band formed in 1982 by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira. One of few acts to emerge from the New York City-based no wave scene and stay intact into the next decade, Swans have become recognized for an ever-changing sound, exploring genres such as noise rock, post-punk, industrial and post-rock. Initially, their music was known for its sonic brutality and misanthropic lyrics. Following the addition of singer, songwriter and keyboardist Jarboe in 1986, Swans began to incorporate melody and intricacy into their music. Jarboe remained the band's only constant member except Gira and semi-constant guitarist Norman Westberg until their dissolution in 1997.
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Links to Peel
"The Swans are best known for the disconcertingly slow tempo of all their numbers, which they prefer to play at extreme volume. … Swans’ music is mad music, disintegration filmed and shown in ultra slow motion. … Bright their work certainly is not, yet its grinding relentlessness, the stubborn adherence to this most restricted of forms, begins to make some kind sense as the set rages on. … Swans’ music is too shocking, too thought provoking, too much of today to be merely enjoyed."
(John Peel reviews Swans, live at The Garage, Nottingham, for the Observer, 1986-02-16)
Although Peel had given airtime to early Swans releases, his enthusiastic reaction to seeing the band live in Nottingham in February 1986 led to them featuring more regularly on his shows for the rest of the year and beyond, until they shifted to a more melodic, less brutal sound. A possibly ill-judged cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in 1988 proved the final straw for the DJ and he didn’t play them again, although their influence continued to be felt in the extreme music that he supported, including grindcore.
Long after Peel’s death, Shane Embury of Napalm Death selected the Swans LP 'Cop' for a record box drawn from the DJ’s Record Collection for an online series. In an accompanying video, he paid tribute to the US band as a formative influence:
"They became very important in Napalm’s evolution. ... As much as we were into fast, hard-grinding music, Swans was just as grinding to us, but at the other end of the spectrum. To us, it could be extremely fast or extremely slow, as long as the sound was really powerful and really abrasive."
Festive Fifty Entries
Other Shows Played
- 01 August 1982 (BFBS): Take Advantage (12" EP - Swans) Labor
- 06 February 1983 (BFBS): Laugh (7" EP - Swans) Labor
- 03 April 1984: Blackout (LP - Filth) Zensor
- 07 April 1984 (BFBS): Blackout (LP - Filth) Zensor
- 07 April 1984 (BFBS): Blackout (LP - Filth) Zensor (deliberately played on 45RPM)
- 07 April 1984 (BFBS): Thank You (LP - Filth) Zensor
- 25 April 1984 (BFBS): Right Wrong (LP - Filth) Zensor
- 15 May 1984: Blackout (LP – Filth) Neutral
- 23 May 1984 (BFBS): Blackout (LP - Filth) Zensor
- 26 November 1984: Clay Man (LP - Cop) K.422
- 02 December 1984 (BFBS): Half Life (LP - Cop) K.422
- 23 December 1984 (BFBS): Clay Man (LP - Cop) K.422
- 06 January 1985 (BFBS): Your Property (LP-Cop) K.422
- 17 February 1986: (Peel mentions seeing A Witness and the Swans in Nottingham on Thursday night and writing about it in a Sunday newspaper.)
- Half Life (LP - Cop) K.422
- 22 February 1986 (BFBS): Your Property (LP-Cop) K.422
- 24 February 1986: Time Is Money (Bastard) (12") K.422
- 11 March 1986: Time Is Money (Bastard) (12") K.422
- 08 April 1986: Anything For You (LP - Greed) K.422
- 15 April 1986: Nobody (LP - Greed) K.422
- 22 April 1986: (JP: 'And now the band you love to hate')
- Heaven (LP - Greed) K.422
- 02 September 1986: Time is Money (Bastard) (single) K.422
- 15 September 1986: A Hanging (LP - Holy Money) K.422
- 20 September 1986 (BFBS): A Screw (12") K 422
- 30 September 1986: Fool (#2) (LP - Holy Money) K.422
- 11 August 1987: New Mind (12") Product Inc
- 04 September 1987 (BFBS): New Mind (12")' (Product Inc.)
- 04 September 1987 (Radio Bremen): New Mind (12") Product Inc.
- 19 October 1987: (Peel says he's heard the latest Swans double LP and thinks he's had enough of them.)
- 04 May 1988: Love Will Tear Us Apart (7") Product Inc.
- 14 May 1988 (BFBS): Love Will Tear Us Apart (7")' Product Inc.
- 24 May 1988: Love Will Tear Us Apart (12") Product Inc.
- 28 May 1988 (Radio Bremen): Love Will Tear Us Apart (7") Product Inc. (JP says the band’s Joy Division cover is disappointing as he hoped they would have done the song through their traditional slow style.)
- 03 June 1988 (BFBS): Love Will Tear Us Apart (7")' Product Inc. (JP: 'Well, a bit of a disappointment to me, but I thought you'd be interested in hearing it....they should have done it in their usual style, slow it right down and make it really grim.')