Swans – To Be Kind
Presented with a band with as colossal a history as Swans’, it is difficult not to compare and scrutinise every element with previous work. This temptation has to be parked, as the most esteemed and respected artists stay relevant and transcend genres as time progresses and the zeitgeist changes.
Perhaps the most striking factor when studying the album in detail is its astonishing length, clocking in at an almost intimidating 121 minutes, and showing that the progressive element is definitely alive in the band’s work. An album’s opening track functions to set the tone with the potential to entice the listener into joining the journey, and Screen Shot does a fairly impressive job of creating a sense of groovy trepidation. The track steadily builds as musical elements ooze in and out, each part carefully layered to maintain the trippy tempo with vocals adding to the sense of melodic doom.
The music is allowed space to breathe throughout as the in-depth instrumental sections repeatedly take the listener down a long road before turning off into more complex parts. The problem with the slow pace of To Be Kind is that greater importance is placed upon the instrumental sections to retain the listener’s interest, and this is rarely acheived. Tracks like Just a Little Boy and Some Things We Do never truly reach a satisfying climax as the progressive tone becomes coma-inducingly dull. There are some more gripping aspects to the album: when the vocals are met with complementing tight riffs the sound does become strikingly uplifting and blissful.
At the best points in To Be Kind the band achieves melodically grungy music that wouldn’t sound out of place on an At the Drive-In B-side, however these moments are buried underneath heaps of overly dragged-out sections that go to extremes of being either too dull or too abstract. If there is such a thing as being too experimental, then Swans definitely achieve it in this album. Too many ideas are chucked into one place without any sense of coherence.
To Be Kind was released on 12th May 2014. For further information or to order the album visit Swans’ website here.
Watch a teaser for To Be Kind here: