Formed: 1982 in New York, NY
Group Members: Jarboe, Michael Gira, Algis Kizys, Roli Mosimann, Ted Parsons, Vincent Signorelli, Norman Westberg, Harry Crosby, Jonathan Kane, Ivan Nahem, Bob Pezzola, Clinton Steele, Ronaldo Gonzalez
Styles: American Underground, Alternative Pop/Rock, Noise-Rock, United States of America, Post-Punk, Dark Ambient, Experimental Rock
Crawling out of the same noisy, arty New York underground that sired Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch, Swans created a dark, abrasive, murky, slowed-down noise-rock that served as a starting point for their ruminations about alienation, depression, depravity, and the disturbing side of human nature. Singers Michael Gira and Jarboe have been the group's only constants over the years; Gira has taken the group from its early confrontational shock tactics to a more varied, mature attack. The band first appeared on record in 1982 with a self-titled EP, and its early releases document their search for the musical vocabulary to express their ideas effectively. Female singer Jarboe joined the group for 1986's Holy Money and brought a gentler, more relaxed dimension to Swans' sound. The band entered its creative peak with 1987's Children of God and the follow-up Feel Good Now, and secured a deal with MCA through a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which became an indie hit in the U.K. In between releases, Gira and Jarboe recorded with their side project Skin, an outlet for their quieter, more reflective side. Their first MCA album, The Burning World, came the closest to mainstream rock of anything they had done up to that point, and 1991's White Light From the Mouth of Infinity continued that trend. In 1995, Gira published a book, The Consumer and Other Stories, through Henry Rollins' publishing house; the book's release coincided with that of the album The Great Annihilator.
-Steve Huey (All Music Guide)