Today’s Song: Swans’ “Oxygen” Injects Adrenaline into Your Ear Drums

Swans 2014 press photo

I listen to music to control the voices in my head.

I’m not schizophrenic. At least, not diagnosed yet. These voices define the amalgamation of all the dissenting opinions towards myself and my progress towards a larger goal trapped inside my skull. Some types of music, like Jeff Rosenstock’s We Cool? glues all those opinions into a boulder rolling down the fatty ridges of my mind until there aren’t any other thoughts but sad premonitions of the future.

Albums like Everything Everything’s Get To Heaven attaches a golf cart battery to my heart and kickstarts my entire body to start throbbing with enough energy that I could get hit by one of those Smart cars and walk it off.

To Be Kind - Swans

To Be Kind – Swans

Swans’ To Be Kind has quite the opposite effect. The widely structured, somewhat abrasive and deranged industrial rock stabs an emulsion blender into my consciousness and creates a frenzy of not only panic, but odd focus. The album holds a crescendo of ultimate proportions, however it can be quite daunting when peeking four tracks in to see a 35-minute masterpiece that wants to steal your time, energy and headspace until your ears bleed the vocals of Michael Gira.

Formed in 1982, Swans is an American experimental rock group formed by multi-instrumentalist, singer and song-writer Michael Gira. Their contributions to noise rock, post-punk and industrial rock have shaped the entire industry of underground music for decades. The band has transformed heavily since their beginning, having completely dissolved in 1997 and reconstructed themselves in 2010 with an entirely new approach to sound. To Be Kind is their magnum opus.

Listen: “Oxygen” – Swans

“Oxygen,” a track near the end of this album, sums up the tone of this collection with precision. A good starting point to Swans’ decades-long collection of music would be listening to this album cover-to-cover, but if you’re too busy for that this track can be your crash course to the sound of a band so strange, yet beautiful.

A panicked guitar riff breaks the milliseconds of silence after your thumb hits play. The riff’s aggression rips your focus onto the crisp sound of a guitar stealing your heartbeat onto its own metronome. The tone shifts and dancing hi-tops bounce in the back of your mind shoving your thoughts into uncertainty. It leaves you looking into the void of repetition wanting something to happen so the edge of your seat stops feeling so sharp.

Just as your thoughts begin to wane onto your surroundings, a deep bass drum sprays down the images in your head like a Gatling gun in trench warfare. Mind racing, heart pounding, muscle twitching; these animalistic drills of adrenaline litter my experience while consuming only the first minute of this genius work.

This song hooked me into their following as I used it to propel myself into their discography. The eerie tone reminds me of Nine Inch Nails, but the structure to their sound sets them deeper into the industrial side of modern rock more than any other band I’ve found.

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To Be Kind - Swans

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I'm manic towards music. My favorite genres give me headaches after a half hour of listening.