Swans

Holy Money

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AllMusic Review by

Also recorded at the sessions for Greed and A Screw (the album actually contains the "Holy Money" mix of said single), Holy Money is logically similar in general tone and feel to those releases, mixing the established Swans blueprint of lyrical and musical extremity with an ever-broader range and, at times, a broader delicacy than before. "A Hanging" helps to showcase Jarboe's increasing role with the band. Her striking, semi-gospel wails mix with the storm-cloud-laden music, which builds into a massive tribal drum pattern, while Gira sings of self-sacrifice to what sounds like a very unforgiving deity. This immediately leads into the brief "You Need Me," where Jarboe's haunting voice sings a lyric of apology solely over echoed piano. Such unexpected twists crop up throughout Holy Money, as the band engages in a fruitful search for new musical directions. Greed's "Fool" is revisited as "Fool #2," transformed into an equally ominous track, but this time accompanied by almost majestic electric guitar and drums along with the original piano and keyboards. Gira's vocals are notably clearer in this piece, though the lyrics are hardly any less gentle. Another Greed track, "Money Is Flesh," gets its own drastic remake on the album as well. "Another You," meanwhile, has distinctly strange and beautiful -- in an alien way -- guitar scrapes and shades which provide texture to the lengthy track, with one of Gira's most obsessive interpersonal lyrics (and one of his best vocals up to that time) further gracing it. Ending with "Coward" -- contrasting almost intimate if still haunted upfront Gira's spoken vocals set against a buried series of his screams and shouts in the background of the mix over a repetitive crunch of guitar, bass, and drums -- Holy Money well documents the continuing transformation of Swans into a more complex, intriguing beast.

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