Let’s address the subject of brevity for a moment. The skill of expressing ideas as quickly and as briefly as possible is something of a necessity in the dynamic 2010s, where the fight for attention on the saturated World Wide Web grows ever fiercer. My attention span is not what it was, I can tell you that. Neither is yours I bet. The way I interact with the internet has served to slowly wear down my ability to sustain concentration on anything for more than a few minutes. It bugs me. I consume content on the internet like junk food – I go for the stuff that gives me instant gratification and instant results. Such behaviour can’t be that unusual because there’s evidence all over the web to suggest that attracting the attention of the crowd is getting more and more competitive.
Here’s an example – more and more articles use their headlines to not only grab the attention of a potential reader, but also to set clear boundaries for the article’s length. The need to convince and assure readers of said article’s worth and conciseness is increasing in importance. The beginning and end has got to be clearly laid out if it’s expected to keep the modern reader on board for the duration. That’s why these ‘10 Reasons Why It’s Good To Eat A Sandwich‘ features that are now all over the internet are so successful – the article has set out how long we have to endure the content before it’s time to move on. Fear of the unknown is something that everyone can relate to and if I’m unsure how long an article is I’m likely to do a runner before even embarking on reading it. My attention span really is that bad I’m afraid.
As the line between our internet use and the what we know as a ‘life’ grows increasingly muddier, I think I can draw comparison between what is written above with the consumption of music. This same pressure to be succinct is surely felt in the world of music, especially since many of us listen via the internet. With the listener able to turn off at any moment, bands must feel under pressure to present who and what they’re all about in as concise and direct fashion as possible. It’s impressive that a band such as Swans, who specialise in the kind of lengthy music that would send many people running a mile, achieve the kind of success and recognition that they do. Since band leader Michael Gira reformed the band in 2010, Swans have set the benchmark for what consists of really out there rock music in the new millennium. ‘To Be Kind‘, which contains a 34-minute song, is the band’s new album and it’s well worth a listen.
Like 2012’s ‘The Seer‘, ‘To Be Kind‘ is another 2-hour set of deafening and sprawling carnal rock music that disregards ‘songs’ in favour of the kind of Saturnalia of noise often frivolously mismanaged in less capable hands. Swans are experts in crafting hypnotic, mesmeric epics that rarely sound anything less than a sonic kick to the face. These are bold statements that must take an extensive amount of time to put together.
The Bad Seeds often come to mind when considering Swans’ image and position in the world of music in 2014. It’s all leathery faces and elegant clothes when it comes to how the band present themselves, much like Nick Cave‘s crew. Michael Gira’s intimidating presence is also quite Cave-esque. Together, the band are like the intimidatingly good elder statesmen of noise. Check out ‘To Be Kind‘ today – it’s a beast.
Here’s a good example of what Swans are all about:
…and from ‘To Be Kind‘, here’s ‘A Little God In My Hands‘
Want more noise? Check out on my piece on the Icarus Line – they definitely mine from the same rich seam of rock as Swans do.