When I started listening to Swans, one of the first things I heard about them were the legends about their live performances from the 80s. Things like, “People’s ears bled, they had to go to the hospital, and they threw up and died because it was so intense and brutal.” Because it’s me, I read those things, and thought, “Seems like music I should listen to.”
Of course, accounts of early live Swans are exaggerated, but the shows made enough of an impression on attendees that they started the rumors. While there is no way to go back in time and be at a Swans show in 1986, the idea of the exhausting physicality of those performances is crucial to the band even now.
There are phases I have in which I watch a lot of clips of live shows from the 80s on YouTube, low quality ones that someone ripped off an old VHS tape. (Aside from Swans, I watch a lot of Husker Du and Rites of Spring, the latter because I do like watching frontmen get emotional and roll on the floor.) These grainy videos are not even close to a sufficient approximation of what it must have been like to be in a room with Swans playing back then.
What I can tell is that Gira and the rest of the band completely throw themselves into the noise. Gira thrashes around and rolls on the floor like he’s possessed, primal sounds coming out of his chest, with no regard for his future bodily well being. One of the goals here seems to be a form of self-negation, Gira just becoming a vessel for whatever he is channeling.
And seeing Swans now, which I have been lucky to be able to do twice, has actually turned out to be a similar experience. The band doesn’t usually play their older songs unless they’re relevant, but it still seems like Gira is accessing some lower plane of existence when he moves around on stage, twisting his hands in strange patterns, humming with his eyes closed. Gira still turns up the heat, and the sound is so loud that it’s painful. Live Swans is a physical trial that you choose to go through, so that you leave the show purged of some of the aggression Gira drew out of you and displayed onstage.
I saw Swans at ATP last year not knowing anything about them. This is a pretty accurate summary. They were one of my favourite sets at the festival.
True blue music from the green and gold.
Some low-key gems in March of the Real Fly and Yo, Put That Bag Back On if you like synthy twee stuff and pop-punk respectively. Some truly atrocious bullshit in Iggy Azalea.
this is denpagumi.inc’s new video and i’m putting it here so you can watch it because i want you to know i appreciate you being alive and i want you to be happy and at least one of the people in this video used to have crippling social anxiety such that she didn’t leave her house, as i understand it, and then after working up the nerves she needed to interact with other people she found a bunch of friends around a shared interest and long story short, somewhere in there they formed a band, and eventually, this is what they wound up doing, and anyway the moral of this story is that that weird thing you are kind of awkward about admitting just how much you know about it even around your friends sometimes might just be that thing that changes your life and leads to you brightening the day of people you’ve never met and being an inspiration to someone all the way on the other side of the world from the house you didn’t want to leave.
so love what you love and love yourself for loving it, because you’re weird and you never know, someone out there probably thinks that’s pretty great.
Are we at the point yet of picking our favourite Sailor Scouts ‘cos Pinky is my grrrrrrrrl. Reprinting this from OWOB for rlvnc:
I spent a lotta time this year tryin’ to devise some coherent way of tolerating existence, some cohesive philosophy for keeping it together in the face of life’s absolute terror. It’s not real elaborate, but I think I’m finally getting a clue.
The first time I heard “WWD” was along with the video, which lays out the song pretty well. You see each member of the group articulating some specific sadness in the spotlight while the rest look on with sympathy from the shadows. On the first few viewings it was Risa’s vignette which resonated with me the most; it reminded me of a childhood spent lying in darkness not able to sleep, spiralling through fears of aliens and vampires, when I’d turn on the radio next to my bed real soft and listen to Smash Mouth’s cover of “I’m A Believer” broadcasting from 101.9 Fox FM and feel a little soothed. And then an adolescence listening to Sum 41 every morning when the thought of going to school filled me with so much anxiety and dread I was visibly sweating before I’d even left the house. Watching Risa cling to that stereo, I felt like I was seeing a literal depiction of what I’d been doing to cope every single day since I was forced to experience the world.
But when I tracked down an English translation of the lyrics, everything else became intimately familiar as well. Moga withdrew from the world, trading its high stakes for the comfort in the enjoyable meaninglessness of online gaming like I’d done with World of Warcraft for a few perilous years. Ei grew up in a small town in the country where nobody understood her love of anime and manga, reminding me of how hard it was to find anyone else at my high school who wanted to talk about the existentialism of Fullmetal Alchemist until I eventually learned to just shut up and fit in. Pinky was ostracised for spending her free time uploading dance videos to Nico Nico (her videos have all been taken down but Mirin’s are still very much alive) and while I was never one for dancing on camera, I remember one time when a high school friend saw some video blogs I was making in 2008 and said, “You’re a weird kid, Jake.”
Every now and then I’ll go to YouTube and look up ten hour long happy hardcore mixes and leave the day’s soundtrack in the hands of some bedroom DJ with an affinity for chipmunk vocals and anime breasts. A lot of what I like about happy hardcore and various other high-octane electronic subgenres like chiptune is evident in Dempagumi.inc’s. ‘WWD’ races through its first segment, pausing for Moga to describe her video game addiction, and then punching up again with the declaration “Even though we’re not much, we’re aiming for huge dreams!” Unlike the repetition of happy hardcore, though, ‘WWD’ changes gears frequently. There’s the anthemic half-English verse where the group tells everyone to chant “URYA OI! URYA OI!” and another pensive segment where they each flesh out their characters, leading into a very ‘Started From The Bottom’ come-up where they bleed their hearts into the promise of world domination - ‘cos at least it can’t get any worse for them than it’s already been.
I reckon it’s worth staying alive at the very least for the potential to take over the world in whichever way you decide that to mean, and although it’s difficult to find the strength to do so sometimes, it helps when you have a crew to help you run it up that hill. And to belabour the metaphor, even if you don’t get to the top you might at least find what you’re looking for on the way up. The idea that trying in itself is enough seems as good a way as any of getting out of bed in the morning, which is where the struggle to live seems to fall apart for most people anyway. For Dempagumi.inc it’s more about opening that front door - literally depicted in the follow-up video ‘WWD II’ - but nevertheless, you’ve just gotta find the strength to move. This fragile sentience seems to be all we’ve got. Most people ain’t that lucky.
The Hold Steady - Ask Her For Adderall
Craig Finn leaning on “if she asks” in this song is making me think things about screenwriting and storytelling, I fucking love Craig Finn what the hell
One of the only instances in which I like the acoustic version way better. For my OWOB week I tried very hard to map out the plot of The Hold Steady, trying to arrange a timeline in which everything would perfectly coalesce, but d-e-q wisely told me that it’s kinda futile. And it was, of course - these songs all work as vignettes (rah rah ain’t it like life itself no neat beginnings and endings) - but b-sides like this were vital for filling in some blanks.
—"Libera Me" from Hell
"Libera Me" from Hell - Iwasaki Taku
Anime: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
though it ultimately built a skeleton of ambitious invention the series’ “let’s just airbrush stars on it!” brand of limited creativity failed to live up to in every damning respect, there’s no denying that this piece of background music from tengen toppa gurren lagann remains one of the weirdest, most idiosyncratic cuts ever provided for a cartoon about giant robots, ranking up there with the superlative aural strangenesses of ichiko hashimoto’s dives into free jazz and neoclassical postmodernism on rahxephon and torsten rasch’s avant-prog work on orguss 02.
it’s one of the few things worth looking back on with uncomplicated fondness from a show that devolved as it blundered onwards from a brazenly original beginning to an end so dispiriting and predictable in its blithe familiarity and generic recycling it made everyone involved look pathetic and feeble-minded in every respect. i’d say “you couldn’t have offered a more cutting comment on the choices of the super robot subgenre up to that point if you’d wanted to”, except aim for the top 2! diebuster came out in 2004 and it wanted to; its six episodes already went further than ttgl's twenty-six, including the part ttgl missed in typical chauvinistic fashion: offering a hopeful blueprint on how to save the dream of the genre from the genre itself.
it’s almost a slap in the face, then, how much this cut still lives up to its dreams. there is no denying that “‘libera me’ from hell” is titanic, so blatant in its reach its self-consciousness looks titanically hilarious from another angle - omikse called this kind of thing “more based than lil b” the other day, and max wasn’t wrong …
… which is why i’m stealing his description today to describe an example of “hip hop opera” as blunt in its mashup of their base elements as the name implies.
like the childish, amateur mixing of jazzy interludes with hardcore punk that litter refused’s the shape of punk to come (and surely embarrassed more proficient artists that invested time in actually bringing the two schools of music back together after their decades’ old split), iwasaki’s scrunched-face, “adolescent” insistence on leaving them in competition brings about a strange and pleasing harmony.
it’s so brilliantly stupid.
Tara and I obviously have very different perceptions of Gurren Lagann. Like, mine is post-critical, even. I can’t hear 5 seconds of “Minna no Peace” without wanting to cry. I can’t watch the first 3 minutes of the last episode without maxing out my own spiral power. Those moments - and there are so, so many of them - make the plot contrivances irrelevant to me. I started watching it for the nth time recently and for days haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the eighth episode ‘cos I know what happens and it’s devastating every time. It’s jakec in a television show. Everything you need to understand me is right here.
JAKE CLELAND YOU GIANT SWEETHEART YOU’RE GONNA MAKE ME CRY
i apreciate when i read something on the internet that makes me want to be more present + aware + apreciative of my physical environment, even as i’m sitting there on computer.. i mean im looking at a screen right now , but thats not all , im in a location on earth, this is my life hapening. im breathing haha !! ..feel’s good to pay attention to a breath.. im grateful..
These beautiful kids.