The Swans you see in the photo above, the Swans that rose to prominence in New York City’s famed “no wave” scene in the early ’80s, are not the same Swans that have been rising to popularity over the past five years with megalithic double LPs in tow. Although the plodding rhythms and earth-rumbling heaviness that Swans have recently perfected on LPs like The Seer and To Be Kind can be heard in the band’s early music, the Swans of the ’80s are an entity unto themselves. Gira wasn’t being glib when he called Swans’ 2010 return a “reconstitution”, not a “reunion”. A lot has changed since the no wave days.
One foundational early work of Swans’ is Filth, their 1983 debut. The band recently announced a reissue of the record, both in deluxe 3CD and vinyl treatments, both remastered by Doug Henderson, who mastered The Seer and To Be Kind). This reissue will mark the album’s first vinyl pressing in 24 years.
Below you can stream a long unreleased track featured on the second CD of the reissue, “I’ll Cry for You”. This song is featured alongside material from the 1991 compilation Body to Body, Job to Job. With distortion and intense vocals aplenty, “I’ll Cry for You” is a small but fascinating relic of Swans’ early days. Even more interesting, however, is the story behind the tune.
Swans frontman Michael Gira says to PopMatters, “I vividly remember recording this song in late 1983 in NYC, because we hired child musicians — boys and girls ages 11 to 13 — to play our instruments. It took a lot of gentle (and some not so gentle) coaxing to get them to play like us, with that unique, ‘dragging’ feel that Swans employed at the time, but with a lot of work, we all succeeded. The boy who sang in my place did a particularly good job, I think. With a little tape manipulation, a seamless replication. We didn’t release this song at the time because we couldn’t get legal approval from all the parents, but now it’s available.”
Filth‘s deluxe reissue is out on 26 May via Gira’s own Young God label.