City Paper is not for tourists
Swans, a New York City post-punk group led by austere visionary Michael Gira, made uncompromising, often brutal music from the band’s inception in 1982 to its demise in 1997. Gira’s lyrics were influenced by Jean Genet and the Marquis de Sade and obsessed with sex and the Old Testament. Listening to those early recordings was like being trapped in a dorm room at 3 a.m. with a pretentious, black-clad art student whose humorless rants knew no end. Unsurprisingly, Swans’ sadistically loud live shows reportedly caused multiple patrons to vomit on themselves. Gira has remained active, playing in the Angels of Light and running his Young God label, which released the early, good Devendra Banhart records and, more recently, the excellent work of James Blackshaw, the finest extant practitioner of American Primitive guitar playing (although he’s British). Gira has reformed Swans for a new recording and tour, although he will tell you in stentorian all-caps that “THIS IS NOT A REUNION.” Jarboe, the chanteuse who softened the Swans’ sound when she joined in 1985, is not included in the not-reunion. Gira’s still got religion, as evidenced by the reference to his “mendicant friar act” in the credits of the forthcoming record, My Father Will Guide Me Up To a Rope in the Sky. The savage, trembling no-wave guitar sound and Gira’s baritone, which makes Mark Lanegan sound like Tiny Tim, are still intact. Longtime Swans fans can rest assured that, with song titles like “You Fucking People Make Me Sick,” Gira is just as cuddly as ever.
SWANS PERFORMS WITH BABY DEE AT 8 P.M. ON WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 29, AT BLACK CAT, 1811 14TH ST. NW. $20. (202) 667-4490.