May 1, 1999
[a]Nick Cave[/a] once stated that thematically his work was chained to a bowl of vomit....
8 / 10
Nick Cave once stated that thematically his work was chained to a bowl of vomit. In Michael Gira's case, it's something even less sanitary. After two decades of documenting the outer reaches of human behaviour with the Swans, he still shows little sign of softening.
At least since 1989's 'The Burning World' LP Gira has swapped the slothful pace and sickening volume of his early records for an acoustic country sound. Backed here by a new group, one containing many familiar faces from the New York underground, he once again proves that he is capable of moments of astonishing, blinding beauty - especially the harp-embellished rhapsody of 'This Is Mine', one of the finest songs he's written.
Yet for a man who obviously sees beauty all around him, he's only too willing to destroy it. With a voice 20 fathoms deep and sinking, he spends much of this record in all too traditional territory: drunks are raped by dogs, snakes crawl through eye holes and tongues are removed. An intense violence and hatred is shot through every last second of this 70-minute tour of purgatory. Gira, it seems, is unable to move on. Which is why he remains what he's always been: a voice in the shadows, a test for the strong of stomach.
It's a mire he'll never leave. This is a beautiful album. It's just that it's made by an ugly man.
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