Swans - To Be Kind
Mar 26, 2020
89
Is it fair to say that this is Swans' most fun record? Especially after the harrowing darkness of The Seer, Swans just returned with some absolute party bangers... in their own twisted way of course. To Be Kind is still a mixed bag for me though, even though it's one of my favourite Swans albums.

See, when TBK goes all out it's unmatched. There are no other songs in Swans' catalogue like Oxygen, or She Loves Us, or A Little God in my Hands. They bring this new and unique energy and sound that we've never heard before. Sure the lyrics are still out there, but I absolutely adore them, half of the record's energy comes from the incredibly memorable lines across most of the record. They're anthemic and weird, you can't quite decipher if "your name is fuck" is supposed to be an insult or some kind of symbol for empowerment. Perhaps that's a bit silly of an example, but my point is that To Be Kind isn't as immediately straightforward as a lot of Swans' other works. They've dabbled with this on their other post-reunion records, and on Soundtracks especially, but the difference is clear in the nuance of these records. This record, unlike those other mentioned, isn't some almost ritualistic "look how fucked up we are" exercise, it's off the wall bonkers but for other reasons than "wow this is so dark haha." TBK can be absolutely blissfull at times, it can feel like a power trip in a good kind of way. Oxygen makes me want to fight literal death, I haven't gotten that feeling from anything else Swans related!

I think for something this different, it's pulled off very very well... but not without fault. As said TBK's got unmatched highs, but it also suffers from a fair amount of lows too. I feel like I'm the only person in existence who think Screen Shot is just okay, it's a cool opener but leaves me with not much after 8 minutes. Some Things We Do I really like the lyrics off, but there isn't really much more to love than that. I understand the record needed a pause between the two best songs on the record, but effectively STWD only get swallowed in the madness without leaving much to chew on in and off itself. It's not even that good of a moodsetter, as we see much more done with Just A Little Boy and the first half of the title track. Kristen Supine also suffers from a lack of memorability, and that fucking sucks when it's a 10+ minute song we're talking about. Nathalie Neal too, though much better overall than the tracks discussed so far, is one of the less impactful songs, when it goes hard it goes hard but overall I don't find it that interesting. See that's the main issue with this record, when it fails to live up to its own standard of "holy fucking shit I'm gonna cum"-level crescendos and Michael Giras manic cosmic preachings it just becomes a little dull. Somewhat boring. A bit of a snooze.

So it's inconsistent, but I still love it to death because the good on this record is some of the best music I've ever heard. Some of the best music I ever will hear probably. Sometimes a mediocre track can be forgiven with a 34 minute, two part epic that includes the best fucking transition involving horses I've heard in my life. I might not have heard a lot of musical transitions involving horses but this is by far the best of the lot. So I'm still giving it a really fucking high score despite Kristen Supine being unmemorable or whatever. Simply put; the highs outweigh the lows for me, even though it's a 2 hour album we're dealing with.
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