From the beginning, Swans have played stately, desolate, implacable songs that slammed home the certainty of suffering and death. Mr. Gira and Jarboe, the group's keyboardist and alternate singer and songwriter, write about blood and pain, domination and corruption, God and the void. Through the years, they have set their lyrics to dissonant, gargantuan hard rock; to grim, machine-driven dance rhythms, and, most recently, to resonant drones. Although they anticipated the likes of Tool and Nine Inch Nails, Swans were never quite in sync with the pop market; they stood adamantly apart.
Rarely is so much meaning conveyed in the space of six letters. And with regard to Xiu Xiu, its applications are infinite: always relevant, always provocative, always surprising, always evolving, always glittering.
It’s fitting, then, that as the band (now comprised of Jamie Stewart, Angela Seo, Bettina Escauriza, Marc Riordan, and returning member Devin Hoff) marks a decade in existence, such a powerful sentiment would serve as the title of its latest album. At its core, Always symbolizes the mutual camaraderie with and deep dedication to each person who has internalized Xiu Xiu’s work, tattooed its name on their skin or soul, and throughout the past ten years made the band a part of their lives.
The origin of these intense, everlasting bonds is Stewart. His fearless lyrics have given voice to life’s most untouchable and taboo subjects, while his distinctively committed but hushed vocals crystallize and medicate their unsettling impact.