Swans

Public Castration Is a Good Idea

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In a doom-laden, bass-heavy start, Public... opens with "Money Is Flesh" rumbling to life in the nearest equivalent to Chinese water torture that loud rock has ever achieved; when Gira starts his tremendous ranting almost five minutes in, the effect only gets that much more intense. This long out-of-print semi-official bootleg, given a formal re-release in 1999, succeeds admirably at its goal of capturing live Swans in excelsis as avatars of destruction, corruption, and domination. Recorded at a series of English dates in support of Holy Money, Public... covers tracks from both that album and Greed, plus a stomping, almost ritualistic version of "A Screw" where things get all that much more vicious by the second, especially when the introduction of huge amounts of echo and background feedback kicks in, leading to Gira's final anguished roars of "Holy! Holy!" again and again. The strong band lineup at this point was Gira, Jarboe, Westberg with his wrenching guitar work, Kizys on equally extreme bass, and two drummers, Gonzalez and Parsons, all working together brilliantly to blast the unique Swans vision of music and life into probably utterly unsuspecting (and apparently at times stunned-silent) audiences. Tracks which came across as a touch more subtle on record, aim for the extreme here. For example, while "Fool," here in its piano and guitar version from Greed, still mostly consists of just that, Gira's vocals are even more wracked than before. Gonzalez and Parsons' brutal drum work continues its overwhelming feel from track to track, almost making the disc sound like separate movements of one very dark modern symphony indeed. While it's hard to pick out any one moment where everything is at its peak, the conclusion of "A Hanging" -- all percussion and Gira's echoed, wordless shouts -- sticks for a very long time in the memory. In all, a truly mesmerizing, powerful release.

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