"[T]he uncompromising visions of Gira are beginning to feel more and more self-indulgent with each record."
Way back in high school, one of the stoner kids once told this reviewer he cried and shat his pants while listening to 1996's Soundtracks For The Blind on acid and staring at a wall. All two-and-a-half hours of it. That little anecdote should tell you all you need to know about the music of Michael Gira and Swans. And given his intensity as an artist, that's probably just how the guy wants you to hear it all too. It's been a successful and prolific decade for Gira's vehicle, but their latest release, Leaving Meaning, just feels slightly too much like Swans by numbers for it to be something you can cry and shit your pants to.
In terms of its textures and songwriting, Leaving Meaning sits comfortably on the shelf with their other post-rock-y records like The Seer and The Glowing Man – it's more spooky dream sequence Swans than the industrial torture muzak of their earlier incarnations. All the hallmarks of Gira's songwriting are here in full force though: abstract poetry on the nature of man, long-ass instrumental drones, guttural mouth sounds, two-and-a-half hour runtimes, dissonant percussion breakdowns, yada, yada, yada. And frankly, despite there being some total "Fuck yeah!" moments when the group are firing on all cylinders, the uncompromising visions of Gira are beginning to feel more and more self-indulgent with each record.