Swans never do what you’d expect. They are a band of sonic liberation. They're unshackled from the rest of the music world and even from themselves. They don’t stick to a sound or style, as is the case on their latest effort, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. They embrace brash, violent, and heavy tonalities. They attack their music like it's their enemy, like it's the world around them for which they seem to have such disdain. But like any good paradox, with their music, they also find solace. There are many gentle numbers on this record that hold the same equilibrium of passion and worldly disdain.
The nakedness of the instrumentation on the softer songs yields to the vocals and lyrics, which ultimately give Michael Gira's sentiments a more immediate, direct power. Indeed, My Father Will Guide Me… includes many pieces written within a traditional structure that at their core recall some variant of the Nick Cave songbook.
The album opens with “No Words/No Thoughts”, with chimes beautifully clanging like the dawn. Epic power sludge interrupts, conjuring the primordial soundtrack to the world's birth. As the heavy-osity dissipates, the verse pulses and builds and slowly returns to power drenched heights. “Reeling The Liars In” plays like a Woody Guthrie campfire sing-a-long with near religious solemnity, while Michael Gira ringing out like a march to the gallows on judgment day for sinners of the tongue. “You Fucking People Make Me Sick” centers on the interplay of dulcimer and call and response vocals between Gira and the voice of a child, which mixes with haunting effect.
The closer, “Little Mouth”, plays like a sea shanty. The whimsical sway of the tide that drives the tune is a proper send-off for Swans, and reminds us that their journey is a tumultuous one.