Album Review: Swans – The Beggar

3.5/5

Since the early 1980s, Michael Gira, one of the pioneers of New York’s No Wave music scene, has been releasing his own unique brand of music with Swans that has managed to both confound many and create lifelong fans of others. The genre-defying music has evolved over the decades, at various times drawing in elements of harsh, sonic sludge; dark, brooding, atmospheric rock; and even flirting with melody now and again. But it has always remained uncompromisingly original. And the Swans’ latest, The Beggar, keeps the streak going.

And we have the pandemic to thank yet again for another solid record that otherwise might never have been made.

“After numerous pandemic-induced cancellations of tours for the previous Swans album leaving meaning, and an apparent bottomless pit of waiting, waiting, waiting, and the strange disorientation that came with this sudden but interminable forced isolation, I decided it was time to write songs for a new Swans album and forget about everything else,” says Gira about The Beggar. “They came relatively easily, always informed by the suspicion that these could be my last. When I finally was able to travel, songs in hand, to Berlin to work with my friends recording this record, the feeling was akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from black and white to color. Now I’m feeling quite optimistic.”

The record is everything Swans’ fans have come to expect from the band, from the moody opening track “Parasite,” to the driving “Los Angeles City of Death” to the cacophonous album closer “The Memorious.” And sandwiched between all of that is “No More of This,” quite possibly the most beautiful song the band has ever recorded and a reminder of the band’s depth when it comes to creating music.

The Beggar will be released on double vinyl in a brown chipboard sleeve with a download card for accessing an additional 44 minutes of music (also included on the album’s CD version) as a double CD in a brown chipboard digi-pack; as well as digitally.

Purchase this album.

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