Album Reviews | Swans – To Be Kind (2014)

This could be the most ambitious rock album I have ever heard. Clocking in at just over two hours, Swans‘ latest album To Be Kind is a bloated beast, with half of its tracks registering lengths above five minutes and the other half coming in with lengths above ten. There’s even one track (“Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture”) that is a staggering 34 minutes long. It’s good music, but make no mistake, I have found To Be Kind a ponderous listen during pretty much all of my attempts to listen to it in one go. Some will no doubt love uncovering every nook and cranny of Swans ringleader (and producer) Michael Gira‘s unchecked id and will enjoy exploring what’s in his psyche, others will just find this long and indulgent. I’m somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, it’s incredible that someone could even conceive of something this massive in scope — both in terms of album length and complexity in art rock composition — but on the other hand…well, I doubt I will have much of a long term interest in this thing simply because it’s so unwieldy. To Be Kind was one of the best-reviewed albums of 2014, and is something of a modern classic. Plus, some tracks are very good, like the opener, “Screen Shot,” and track 8, “Oxygen.” Recommended if you’re up for a challenge.


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