Favourite Albums of 2012: Swans – The Seer
Fuck. Seriously. The Seer is less of an album than it is an endurance test, listening to it gives me that feeling I imagine those 11 people who’ve actually read Ulysses must get. The Swans have never been one of those bands you’d want to put on at a party and much like Joyce’s train-station-ponce-signifier their reputation has always tended to precede them, with stories of audiences vomiting at their gigs and Michael Gira being…well… Michael Gira. But with The Seer they managed to remind us why their name is still one of those you drop into conversation so that Debbie from accounts will let you touch her up at the office Christmas party.*
It’s not even the darkest or heaviest thing they’ve ever done, but it is by far one of the most emotionally punishing records they, or anyone, has put out in a long time. Opening with Lunacy a track that lulls you into a false sense of security with it’s clean, Who-like guitar opening and then proceeds to punch you in the face for nearly two hours. Testing the limits of what you can really put up with as a listener, from the faux medieval chant of the opener to that fact that Mother of the World spends 5 minutes of its running time on the same two notes over and over. This is an album that has no interest in relieving the listener, the tension here doesn’t exist to provide catharsis later on, it exists because that tension is real and the emotions it brings up deserve to be noticed. So sit up and pay attention God dammit!
*Fun fact: the women from accounts are suckers for a guy who knows his avant-garde post punk.