This is the first official reissue for Swans' aptly-titled 1983 debut album in nearly 25 years, featuring a foetal incarnation of their brutal no-wave violence in seasick waves of clattering, clanking noise rock and viscerally howled chants. 'Filth' is the blueprint for many years of harsh, damaged intensity that followed and remains a powerfully unsettling listen. "Fun", said Christgau at the time.
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"I like the idea of standing in a room full of sledge hammers" indeed. There are simply no rock bands that sound anything quite like Swans, either in their refined post-Millennial incarnation or their original grinding bowel-evacuating manifestation. I realise they've touched on many other genres in their time but basically these guys, led by legendary mainstay Michael Gira, are most renowned for building brutalist skyscrapers of aural tension, restrained chaos and avant-garde caveman rock.
'Filth' is their début from '83 and still sounds utterly remarkable and much more fun than I recall. Being that I have literally returned from the dentist 10 minutes ago I thought it most apt that I should review this brilliantly antisocial scratchy din with its famous laughing teeth on the sleeve. Our Ant once bought matching t-shirts with this image emblazoned on the front for two of his children at a Swans gig. God knows what the "normal" parents must think on sunny days in the park!
I'm nae gonna do a track breakdown but, for instance, opener 'Stay Here' is sonically, at least, a precursor to a lot of math and noise rock. It swims in caustic, churning waters with its bludgeoning stop-start rhythm section and squalling, drunk guitar trails. Like a serious Killdozer even or perhaps Buttholes at their most turgid maybe. But while all these bands were still staring amazed at the hair growing on their downstairs teabags, Swans were already honing the new grimy sound. 'Big Strong Boss' recalls Big Black at a fetish club. A clear indication of their increasingly sparse and terrifying sound to come, this S&M gem is stunning with its psychotic spiky post-punk guitar shapes and stumbling percussive onslaught.
This cracking album is probably one of the best things to come from the difficult recesses of the so-called No Wave scene. Gira's bellow is rawer and lairier than you'd first recognise and the music is definitely cleaved from a huge nihilistic art-rock-face. But its heart lies in Industrial music, the metallic clanging of Einstürzende Neubauten and post-reformation Faust at their most crushingly concrete. 'Filth' is a hybridized Swans record, not a purist one. It's a true delight to hear these raw, angry, bleak roots, a recording over 30 years old that sounds as vital and furious as any of their later endeavours. A timely reissue of a visceral dirt-rock classic.
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