SWANS – White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (1991)

Review by: Tristan Peterson
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

A Nihilist Anthem For The Saved, And The All-Too Damned

Big thanks to Charly for accidentally assigning me an album I’ve known for a while, and also an album which I like. This’ll be fun.

So, to get backstory on just what a Swans is, they are an experimental rock band from New York City, although they started as one of the most violent No Wave acts to emerge from the scene. Though they still do have some of the loudest shows ever-behind Sunn O))) and My Bloody Valentine-the way frontman Michael Gira presents the sonic formations of Swans makes this volume essential.

White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity came out in 1991, which was a very interesting time period for this project. No longer were they the No Wave powerhouses of the early 1980s. At this point, the seminal Children Of God was about 4 years under Swans’ belt. From 1987 to 1991, Swans put out two live albums, Feel Good Now (1988) and Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room (1990), and one studio album, The Burning World (1989). While their live records were received about as well as live records usually are (that being, no one really cares besides the die hard fans) [that being said, check out Anonymous Bodies, it’s a truly great record], The Burning World more than a bit of  failure. See, after the unexpected popularity of their cover of the only Joy Division song most people know (need I even name it?)-and yes I do mean unexpected, it’s pretty shitty-the band was signed to Uni records. The album was produced by both Bill Laswell and Michael Gira, and had a drastic change in sound for Swans: not only were there ACOUSTIC instruments, but it took influences from things like the token, all too terrifying, all too assoicated with Yanni WORLD MUSIC, as well as touches of FOLK MUSIC. Gone was the aggression of their previous albums, save for one song (Let It Come Down), and in was the tacky Blind Faith covers and “sensitive” side of Gira and co-Swans-head Jarboe. The album was panned commercially and fairly critically, and Gira has said on record that he hates this album.

So with all that backstory, what is White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity? Is it any good? Could Swans actually pull out of the godawful nosedive that was The Burning World?

The answer to the last two is “yes” and I’m about to explain the first one.

Obviously, what ever bug that crawled into Gira’s ass at the time of recording The Burning World had since died and fallen out, as is easily told by the opening track, “Better Than You”. Of course, many veteran Swans listeners may cringe at the opening baby sounds, like I do whenever I listen to it, but so long as you can make it past, you are surely in for a treat. “Better Than You” is exactly what made Swans great, with a few added twists. The acoustic guitars are still here, but used more sparingly. Melody has become increasingly apparent, but back is the old aggression, and unrepentant, crippling nihilism we so expect from Gira’s sonic, lyrical and authorial expats. Better than you is a fairly driving piece, with loud, vibrant percussion, swirling synths, intense repetition, and, like many Swans pieces, features Gira’s droning semi-monotone, bassy voice. The second track, “Power And Sacrifice,” expands on similar motifs to “Better Than You,” but in a slower, more brutal context. Even two tracks in, and most listeners’ bodies will begin to feel the weight of this maw of hopeless depression. Thankfully, there is a slight repreive in the third track, “You Know Nothing”. It’s a ballad-y type piece, in something that you could say resembles a major key at times. I say slight, as the lyrics-which I’ll cover later-continue to weigh down on the psyche. Track four, “Song For Dead Time”, does what “Power And Sacrifice” did. It continues to explore the themes and areas established before it, to much better success. “Song For Dead Time” is a disturbing acoustic ballad, whose synth accentuations make Jarboe’s whisper of a vocal all the more unnerving. By this point, if you don’t want to have your day ruined, I recommend you turn the album off now, as it doesn’t get much darker than the first four tracks, but it certainly does not get any happier.

That is, except for “We Will Survive,” track 5 of the record. In my opinion its the weakest song on the album, as the repetition we know Swans so well for does not work here, which is a shame. All in all, its a bland, throwaway track. Thankfully, this is quickly fixed by the end of the first half of the album, the crooning denouncement of romance, “Love Will Save You”. The song is like a cascade of frequencies crashing down on your ears as the world around you falls in on itself, in all its shimmering majesty.

Now we come to the true highlight of the record, and the beginning of the second half, “Failure.” Although it is a very simple acoustic song, even simpler than “Song For Dead Time,” the atmosphere set up by the simple, four chord song is the pinnacle of this album, and even the album that follows White Light, Love Of Life (which is essentially a clone of this record, with some minor changes, but its still very enjoyable). There is something about the strumming pattern, the keyboard, and Gira’s voice blending so perfectly to create an anthem for hopelessness, a suicide swan song, a nihilist calling in fact. Far and away, “Failure” is the best song on the album, and its emotional weight is near indescribable. So, if nothing else, I implore you investigate that song.  

Sadly, this atmosphere is not well upheld, as the following track, “Song For The Sun,” is all too much like “We Will Survive,” and it has the same issues plaguing it, but it is even MORE out of place, as it is almost upbeat at times, which breaks the unrepentant hopelessness this album hopes to provide you with. “Miracle of Love” is a sort of second rate version of “Love Will Save You,” but is enjoyable in its own right. It sort of bridges the atmospheric gap between “Power And Sacrifice” and “Failure,” though, so its more than made up for in that respect. “When She Breathes” is another highlight of the album, and is sort of like the Jarboe variant of “Failure,” which is obviously welcomed by me. It has a bit more of a bite to it than Failure, so it is more angry than it is hopeless, but is still an amazing work. Sadly, the album ends on a dud and a half, as “Why Are We Alive?” sounds like a cheesy late 80s, average rock song in the Swans lens, and “The Most Unfortunate Lie” is a heavily watered down “Failure,” almost to the degree where it might be considered success.

The lyrics on this album are second to none, as is exemplified on “Failure,” and thats what makes so much of this album work, but also not work. When you have songs talking about how Love will save you from all damnation because you’ll be too stupid to realize you’re in hell, and how everything is meaningless and you will die an insignificant shit stain on the universe, you can’t have songs about how you will also make it through this dark time, no matter how well written they are. Another problem, as exemplified on “Why Are We Alive?” is how the lyrics completely conflict with the music being shared. I’m pretty sure the explanation is self explanatory for a song called “Why Are We Alive?,” but similar issues occur in “Song For The Sun.”

Overall, this album would be much much better if it had a more consistent tone and mood throughout, and if were able to keep up that crushing feeling so many of the songs offer, I might call this record a 9, or even a 10. But its inconsistencies in mood and quality drag it down. Now, I’m sure many of you will here readers like this record more than I do, so I encourage you to listen to it, but also don’t be surprised if it disappoints.

Best Tracks: Failure, Love Save You, Song For Dead Time, Power And Sacrifice

Worst Tracks: Why Are We Alive?, Song For The Sun

7.2/10
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PEPE DELUXÉ – Queen of the Wave (2012)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Eric Pember

Pepe Deluxé! A strange name for a band (reminds me of my Uncle Pepe, a great cook, but hardly a Pop fan). As the Youtube trailer (!) suggests, this is a B-Movie turned into a Pop Opera, no less. Hell of an idea, I imagine how thrilled Tarantino would be listening to this while playing with Uma’s feet.

And as we say in Spanish “Looks can be deceiving”. This might as well be the modern “Forever Changes”. It succeeds to be humourous, electronic, cheesy, soundtrack-y, hard rocking in parts, epic in others, and it’s filled with lots of details.

“Queenswave” starts off as a low-key overture. A beautiful peaceful song that soon turns into something else, Arabic sounds first, a Jethro Tull quality flute, a pulsating bass, a soothing voice, then the guitar joining an almost dance-worthy drum pattern.  A fantastic piece for this age.

“A night and a day” – A very deep groove, the woman’s voice unravels an almost electronic and powerful line (Something Moby would have loved to have written), and it all goes up, soulful, and then a little bit of psychedelia – that unexpected break at 2:45, and the bassline could be Macca in Sgt Pepper’s, and then it’s all hard rocking,  jarring enough to wake you up from the dead.

“Go Supersonic” – B-52s turned into a Japanese Female Pop Band? Humourous, yes, and some nice grated cheese for good measure. The girls’ chorus is totally enthralling, catchy as hell. When they go operatic (is that a word?) it gets a little odd, but soon the main melody is back and it could go all night in your club and nobody would mind you dancing with your tie off, for once in your life.

“Hesperus Garden” – Retro-charged Electronica to keep shaking your hips, you hipster. I bet if we get Kill Bill 3, Quentin would be happy to include this in some bloodbath scene. 

“In The Cave” is a short dreamy interlude with a .. Stalacpipe Organ? This calls for Vincent Price. Watch the YT video, it’s.. special (a Nagra tape recorder I want one!!)

“My Flaming Thirst”, you can always count on some witty and unemployed Youtuber to give you the key: “Best Bond Song never used in a Bond movie ever!” (sic). That summarizes it. More cheese with keyboards, a great female voice, dismaying girls singing in the background, you can dance to this while you’re escaping the bullets and jumping from building to building. Probably in Paris. Not easy but it’s even better than “A view to a kill”.

“Iron Giant”, a kind of lo-fi musical box, children’s song and “The Storm” (Godzilla coming?) don’t dissapoint but it’s “Riders of The First Ark” the strong ending a demented and lovely outre ouevre like this deserves: A harsh male voice, and as any respectable closing number, a (finnish) cowboy harmonica, girls singing over heavy drums, returning glorious guitars…  And a mysterious coda, almost like a George Martin tape played backwards with some more harmonica, a church organ of course.. and… The Waves.. waving you.. Goodbye.

Children, *please* do try this at home, we’ve had enough of unfunny experiments, of safe market-ready media, let’s go a little crazy, “Music needs more chaos” as Morrison used to say, use the past to your advantage and feed on the modern marvels to make you (us) happy.

END OF MY REVIEW!

THE BEATLES – The Beatles’ Christmas Album (The Beatles Christmas Records 1963-69) (1970)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Franco Micale

BEST SONG:  No idea! I’ll choose.. And this is my new Xmas song for 2016 (remind me in december):


First time I feel grateful the Beatles didn’t last longer! 

1963! Young and innocent days, right? John and his usual acid humour (“I’d like to thank everyone for my birthday gifts but I just haven’t enough pens!”). Wise bit about Paul having the audience send more adequate Beatle gifts (stop those jelly babies!). He was clever, huh? The best musical bits are John doing his deep voice and Ringo does the best King Wenceslas bit. Let the boy sing!

1964! Jingle bells intro. Guys are more professional hey!

Paul -“Don’t know where we’d be without you (the fans)”

John – “The Army, Perhaps”

Lots of mad laughter, probably drug-induced (Drugs were invented already! But Dr Robert will turn up later). Those were the days! (Mary Hopkin)

1965! Ad-Lib record. Best Yesterday, off-key version ever. 

Some banter without any script and some great John and Ringo singing. Ringo thing was Xmas record, no doubt.

More psychedelic talk. We’re entering the period (L-S-D!). They went to the dentist already, I bet. “AULD LANG SYNE” with some Vietnam and China mentions. And more Yesterday, beats Sinatra anytime!

This is an epic record, no doubt. Zappa level. Well a short record anyway. Guys, press it! Rating? Mm.. it’s a The Force Awakens in Stars Wars scale.

1966.. This one is truly weird! Don’t you love 1966? Could be the rehearsal for Tomorrow Never Knows.

Hisses here and there, they act a script? Pantomime! Old Stories told. Odd voices. And Everywhere is Xmas.

In the words of Gordon Gano when he remembered the chaos and turmoil in the Violent Femmes concerts “That was beautiful”. 4 stars and a half on this record.

1967.. Gorgeous version of “Xmas time is here again”. Bootleggers even made a song out of this, God Bless Them (Bob Dylan’s best album is no doubt “The Great White Wonder”). It’s Magical Mystery Tour quality, man. 

Their last Xmas record done together. Sad, that’s life. This one gets a heartily thumbs up!

1968 – Interesting. Remixed bits of a sped up Helter Skelter, Ob-la-di Ob-la-da. Great Xmas song from Paul (the new one, the other one is dead – “HAPPY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY NEW YEAR, ALL THE BEST TO YOU FROM HERE”.)

I would have put this in the White album instead of Revolution 9, probably. Gets a pass!

1969 – Yoko is here. Geez. John preparing corn-flakes; that would surely influence Pink Floyd and their Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast; that cunning Rog Waters boy. Paul McCartney, the doppelganger, saves the day again with a bit from his solo album sessions, probably. John sings with Yoko? At least they did “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” later, maybe they were just warming up.

Thumbs down! says my Beatle heart. Shouldn’t you quit, guys? The Xmas records I mean. But.. Oh well.

/*———–   AND IN THE END… THE LOVE YOU TAKE.. ———————*/

MY MORNING JACKET – My Morning Jacket Does Xmas Fiasco Style (2000)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

For those from the, somehow still existing, non-Christian parts of the world, or the non-Christian inner regions of the bigger outer Christian ones, of the same fallen world again, «Christmas» is a (Christian) o-matsuri, which is the Japanese for “festival”, celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as he was crawling out, bloody and pig-faced from the menstrual crack of the Mother Earth. Understandably, we celebrate that with music – such as with the music from the album reviewed here.

The name of the album is “My Morning Jacket Does Christmas Fiasco Style” where “fiasco”, as my girlfriend who has been to Italy twice in the last five years a whole week each time, before the oil prices have risen to the skies and everyone has become a mystic, means, or rather, presumes, an interplay of words between “a failure” and a certain type of wine bottles used wherever in hell my girlfriend was travelling before the oil prices have risen to the skies, which interplay is absolutely meaningless if one is uneducated and/or sober.

In my country we do not wear jackets, especially in the mornings, and, for the Christmas, at least, “My Morning Sock” would seem a more fitting title for a band (hinting also at the everyday job-stress-unemployment problems: for the missing sock in question is so often a thing necessary to be found rather quickly in the morning, after a well-spent metaphysical night – so that a human being can put it on and proceed to the job dressed properly – as the male socks here in the countries Christian and partially West are the same as those often-misunderstood hijabs worn by beautiful ladies of the non-Christian (and the whole) East whose (Eastern ladies) beauty is never to be seen under them, same as I do not show the nails on my foot to you without a promise or for free.

So, “My Morning Sock Does Christmas” (“fiasco style” surely was added later, in haste, to avoid a possible lawsuit from Beavis and Butthead and Co) an album from the group completely unknown in Russia is the subject of this review. It’s a “psychedelic” one, “psychedelia” being a cheaper and ethically more affordable variety of cosplay, requiring no expensive silks and linens but only a certain state of mind, easily achievable with the usual Pink Floyd Hare Krishna mantra, and not even a printed rulebook is necessary. The album is rather short and, yes, it’s a Christmas album (the last song being an instrumental reprise of the third (Christmas) one being the proof of that, same as your ID is the proof you can buy alcohol in the shop to celebrate (Christmas) – the world is round, as we still erroneously think, and they are still trying to produce fine, rounded Christmas-like things with the help of the reprises (again) and everything is Christmas and fine  – until we learn that the world is  and has always been flat, falling into the void as the elephants are marching away.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The first song is a Christmas-themed song and it features the line “We are criminals that never break the law”. It is for the same reason that they have a Nick Cave cover on the album. They could not probably pick up a shittier song from Mr Cave but, criminals as they are,  they do not choose much – just grab and run away with what happens to be the worst possible song.  It’s not a crime in this rotten capitalist system to make a remake of some filler shit (in the context of Nick Cave works the song’s only purpose was to be the last song on the album, and the robbers are fully aware of that – still it does not diminish the fact that they have covered one of the worst songs – a deed as unnatural as Christmas itself).

The second one is titled “I Just Wanted to Say” and the singer here wants to say that he “just wanted to be just a little part of your cheer” – now that’s an outright lie, he just wanted to say that he is a criminal who never breaks the law – as he has already said that in the first song, and proved that by stealing the worst possible Nick Cave masterpiece because it was the closest thing to where that criminal in his criminal psychedelic universe was celebrating his Christmas.

The third one is “Xmas Time is Here Again” – this time we have a flashback like they do in thrillers or other such action movies – the flashback in the form of “she’s so pretty but I’m so young, when I’m sixteen I’m gonna have some fun” which basically again means cosplay because the dude in question is well beyond 30 otherwise he wouldn’t have given a damn about Christmas and reprises – we are understandably worried about the girl and the so-far-postponed fun but then she’s probably one of his friends – “ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh” – that’s the real lyrics on the album, that’s probably her contribution, they have creative writing classes for that.

Ah, the fourth one is stolen from Nick Cave, I don’t even want to discuss Nick Cave here. As with any stolen thing a thief tries to wear it as it belongs to him so very specific (to say the least) intonations of Mr Cave’s singing are imitated with care – which act alone, presumably, adds the meaning to that, otherwise completely meaningless, theft.

“Santa Claus is Back in Town” is another cover, an Elvis Presley song. The idea here is if you cover a Presley song you automatically get classified so fuck me Santa Claus on the outskirts of the town if I review that song here at all.

And the last one “Xmas Time is Here Again” an instrumental version of the one under the same name, before. The idea here is that only cultured people can think of an instrumental version of a song, savages do not distinct between singing, playing, dancing, Christmas and My Morning Jacket.

Savages you are and savage your album is. Such a comic album shattering the Christmas symbols, an album on which they are not afraid to acknowledge them being criminals and only being afraid of capitalism, shattering Santa Claus who is Elvis, stealing worst song from a schizophrenic guy, making instrumental reprises of its own shit – shattering, shattering everything but what ends when the Christmas shatters?

THE END

THE BLACK DOG – Spanners (1995)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

This time we go electronic. It is all about *the sound*, the groove. Find the right moment and put this on in an audio setup with a good bass performance (essential) and you’ll be able to enjoy an hypnotic ride. Mostly no vocals mean no distraction, the beat is the master here. But Black Dog are able enough to feed the groove with little details here and there to turn the repetition into a growing mantra. 

This is the kind of album where you don’t pay much attention to the songs individually. Doesn’t matter, it’s a cohesive monolithic experience after all. I get that feeling too with “Up” from REM, but there you have the catchy choruses here and there to remind you where you are. In this record you get lost in the surroundings. And it’s what we want. 

Anyway I’ll mention the loungy beginning with “Raxmus” and the keyboards that are gradually and gracefully introduced. And some tribal faraway voices together with matching drums, up to the robot voice in the final.  “Barbola work” has all these tingling effects and a powerful beat too. Sounds to me like a perfect theme for a TV show, specially for Latin America. It’s got a lot of swing. 

The long “Psil-cosyin” is a song that grows on me by the 8 minute mark when it becomes faster and more involved as all the little parts come together but I believe cutting this one in two would have been a greater benefit. “Chase The Manhattan” and its clever title is an intriguing song, works well for me to imagine a big 80s office with lots of people crowded together, machines screeching here and there and then a.. Chase by the 3 minute mark. 

I will also mention “Nommo” which is a quite drowsy number, welcome after the previous intensity.. “Pot Noodle” is also quite calm and stands out in the pack by adding some nice guitar here and there (synthethized?). Finally, “Chesh” is a very good album closer with that “harp like” keyboard pattern, almost Yes-like.

Not that I have a lot to compare with, but this album gets a PASS as an accomplished electronica piece for an evening sitting on the couching watching the trains go by your window. 

THE UNDERTONES – Hypnotised (1980)

Review by: Ahmed Khālid
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

Due to time and budget constraints lol, I am forced to twitterize my review:

Unfortunately I lack the proper musical background to appreciate 70s pop punk (I don’t get Ramones haha), so here goes my absolutely unapologetic ignorant opinion, based on 3 listens:

I didn’t like it. The music is bright, but the production is too old, the sound is always in the ambience, not gripping you front and center (kinda like Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger as opposed to Superunknown, the way things should always sound) 
Everything is knowing and ironic, but done in a too-obvious way, maybe irony didn’t exist back in the 70s so they had to spell it out for us. Not impressed.
Howevs, it’s servicable enough for a ⅖

MAGAZINE – The Correct Use Of Soap (1980)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss


A great surprise! Indeed I confirm here that early 80s, late 70s (78-82 approximately) is a territory worth investigating.


Magazine’s only album I listened to so far has really managed to capture me. It’s infectious pop and then something, which is exactly what you may expect for this adorable era – a gray area of Power pop/Post-punk/New wave. I felt that this music has aged well, it’s dynamic and concise and there are little details here and there that I enjoyed. 

“Because you’re frightened” starts out the album with a more edgy side (and a fantastic guitar riff) but then “Model worker” is such a perfect blueprint for some of the best pop I’ve listened (later!) in the 80s – that I can’t begin to describe it. Great single material.

“I Want To Burn Again”, a slow acoustic beginning, and then these eighties keyboards used wisely (that great bass is always on top), and the background vocals add colour instead of being predictable; before the end an out-of-nowhere guitar solo to complete another perfect pop bubble.
“A Song From Under The Floorboards” is probably my favourite of the lot, the keyboards and the bass lines really work their best here but the whole group really creates a little pop gem.

“You never knew me” is another great find, with its slow pace and a great vocal delivery from Devoto (and of course some quite direct lyrics) 
“I’m a Party” works too as its title indicates with an upbeat poppy mood (though still somehow punky), and those female background vocals which are a little odd.. Until the 3:00 mark where there’s a nice break until we get back to the original song. Fantastic.

“Sweetheart contract” pushes forward with its slightly psychedelic main keyboard riff (and a dangling guitar playing in the back). Great fun. Didn’t care much for “Stuck” (more funky) or “Thank You” (a cover) though on more listens who knows. 

A great great album for those like me who like pop/synth pop, but with a punk/rockier edge.