SWANS vs. SONIC YOUTH

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Fairly comparable, right? They're often mentioned in the same early 80s NYC post-no wave noise-rock kind of discussions, they toured together a while back, and I think even Gira, Moore, and Renaldo all played in some of Glenn Branca's ensembles. Both had/have fairly long careers that cover a lot of ground, and have a fair amount of crossover in terms of fanbases. SY obviously have seen a lot more fame so they might have some advantage here, but Swans 've got a pretty solid, cultish fanbase that I'm sure will come out of the woodworks.

This is my first poll, and I've been meaning to do it for some time, even though now might not be the best time with all the EPIC polls going on right now. Hopefully it won't get swallowed up by all those.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
SONIC YOUTH39
SWANS 32


Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 17:56 (nine years ago) Permalink

as for myself, I have no idea who I'll vote for. I've loved SY for many years, and I keep coming back to their 80s work several times a year and am continually blown away. I've just recently gotten into Swans but they already hold a pretty important place among my favorite bands. It'll be pretty tough.

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 17:59 (nine years ago) Permalink

i don't think i could possibly choose one over the other as i adore them both equally but will vote for swans as i think sonic youth will win this by a landslide.

stirmonster, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:02 (nine years ago) Permalink

sonic youth; I think the swans aren't as consistent. if this were exended to allow angels of light then it would be closer but SY would still win it for me

akm, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

i was considering the inclusion of angels of light as part of swans, but I wasn't sure if it was fair as it'd be two different bands vs. one band. though it's easy to see angels of light as just a continuation of swans, i'll go with gira's statements that it's a totally different project.

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:17 (nine years ago) Permalink

SY's worst is greater than Swans' best, imho. But I'm kinda biased; SY have been my fave "underground" rock band since '87 or so.

Better thread idea (I think) would be a favorite pig-fucker band poll-- featuring the usual suspects: Butthole Surfers; Big Black; Pussy Galore; etc.

JN$OT, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:33 (nine years ago) Permalink

Swanic Youth

dan selzer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:38 (nine years ago) Permalink

I don't know, I still haven't been able to really get into anything SY has done after Daydream Nation. Any time I give that stuff a try I'm usually just underwhelmed. None of it is bad, but none of it really gets through to me the way the 80s stuff does. Maybe someday I'll spend a lot of time with later-period SY and it'll reveal its greatness.

So, for me, it's like 7 completely awesome SY records (the 80s ones) vs. all of Swans catalogue, which is admittedly inconsistent but every Swans album I've heard has at least a few utterly incredible moments on it that make the whole album worth having, for me.

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 18:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

Swans EVERY TIME.

Alex in NYC, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

http://www.slippytown.com/swanic.jpg

stirmonster, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:32 (nine years ago) Permalink

easiest poll yet! took me all of half a second. swans 4ever. never made a bad record. EVER.

scott seward, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:39 (nine years ago) Permalink

swans and you know it

rogermexico., Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:42 (nine years ago) Permalink

Sonic Youth is still gonna win this, because all the Sonic Youth fans who have never heard Swans (except for seeing Angels of Light live one time a few years ago) are going to mindlessly click Sonic Youth and then forget about this thread until the results are announced.

jaymc, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

just listened to swans for the first time - i didnt realize it was a goth thing

jhøshea, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:49 (nine years ago) Permalink

swans no question.

John Justen, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:53 (nine years ago) Permalink

xpost...
depends how you define goth.

I was always a SY fan first and foremost and probably still am, but at some point I realized I probably listened to the Swans more often. I'd say if anything, the Swans are MORE consistent then SY. I'm actually not as big a fan of early Swans, as discussed on other Swans threads, but stuff like Love of Life is pretty epic for me. But historically it was SY that changed my life and it's still SY's best stuff that comes out on top. Anyway, I'm not voting in this poll.

dan selzer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:54 (nine years ago) Permalink

Swans

Noodle Vague, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 19:58 (nine years ago) Permalink

just listened to swans for the first time - i didnt realize it was a goth thing

People are so stupid.

Alex in NYC, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

lololololololol

Noodle Vague, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

okay there needs to be a thread examining precisely what is and what is not goth, what constitutes goth, and why some bands who are not goth are too often described as goth

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

time to find out who is over and who is under thirty

sexyDancer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:17 (nine years ago) Permalink

If we make this a live poll, it's Swans by a ridiculous margin. And because of that, I pick Swans anyway. Bonus points for having a better sense of when to stop. Double bonus points for better deployment of arguably embarrasing female member. Triple bonus points because Skin/World of Skin is better than any Sonic Youth side project. And so on...

Over 30, but of course.

dlp9001, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

SY, easy. Basically just for the stretch from Bad Moon Rising on thru Sister (Daydream Nation and Goo are fine, too). I appreciate Swans and the sound itself is often spectacular, but I can't relate to Gira. His world-view is such an overwhelming part of the music - not limited to the lyrics - and it often seems silly to me. Undercuts the gravitas they're so obviously striving for.

Agree that SY had a briefer "worth listening to" era.

P.S. Anyone who won't admit the Swans' (perhaps unintentional) gothic aspects isn't really being honest about it. High drama, erotic negation of the self and the flesh, obsession with filth and purity, literary despair, S&M trappings, etc. Nothing wrong with that, mind.

Bob Standard, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:46 (nine years ago) Permalink

plus deep vocals

sexyDancer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:48 (nine years ago) Permalink

Agree that SY had a briefer "worth listening to" era.

Have to disagree here. SY's "worth listening to" period is roughly 1986-2006.

jaymc, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:48 (nine years ago) Permalink

time to find out who is over and who is under thirtyforty

poortheatre, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:50 (nine years ago) Permalink

Cop/Brave Men Run

It's a toughie. While I only really like Cop/Raping a slave era Swans, I love all eras of Sonic Youth so its SY for me I think.

BRAVE MEN RUUNNNN!

I know, right?, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 21:05 (nine years ago) Permalink

Sonic Youth is still gonna win this, because all the Sonic Youth fans who have never heard Swans (except for seeing Angels of Light live one time a few years ago) are going to mindlessly click Sonic Youth and then forget about this thread until the results are announced.

-- jaymc, Tuesday, November 27, 2007 2:45 PM (1 hour ago) Bookmark Link

shut up

Catsupppppppppppppp dude 茄蕃, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 21:18 (nine years ago) Permalink

I like Swans, but there is no real contest. Sonic Youth is maybe the best band of the last 25 years.

Dan S, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 21:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

Never really 'got' Sonic Youth, but Swans were a big part of my late teens/twenties

Jack Battery-Pack, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 21:59 (nine years ago) Permalink

were you a goth?????

Mr. Que, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

is it me or has steve shelley been a boring-ass drummer since goo? i'm just listening to murray street right now, man, the guitars are awesome. moore/renaldo are so confident in just about everything they're doing. but shelley is just boring, no interesting dynamics, nothing. this is sad because his work on the earlier stuff is incredible.

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:04 (nine years ago) Permalink

just listened to swans for the first time - i didnt realize it was a goth thing

People are so stupid.

We'll lie down in the warm green grass
And the sun will shine on our pale shape
Our blood will flow black in the dirt
And a black rose will grow where we laid

Sundar, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:07 (nine years ago) Permalink

Never understood the appeal of Swans' monotonous, pointless music; Children of God may well be the most boring album I've ever heard. Over 40, btw.

xp

I think Steve's drumming has improved over the years; the last couple of SY albums may well feature his best work ever.

JN$OT, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:09 (nine years ago) Permalink

ppl w/ fish eyes n brown sox

sexyDancer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:10 (nine years ago) Permalink

Sonic Youth by a landslike and I have (mostly dubbed) copies of something like 5 Swans albums I haven't listened to in years. I'm frankly amazed at the number of people who find them more consistently listenable.

Sundar, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:11 (nine years ago) Permalink

wasn't the swans/goth connection kind of settled on another swans thread?

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

ah yes. just read this thread and ctrl+f for "goth"

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

I like Swans, but there is no real contest. Sonic Youth is maybe the best band of the last 25 years.

this pretty much says it all for me

stephen, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

why are y'all fighting over these lame old goth bands when there's a new Britney album

latebloomer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:18 (nine years ago) Permalink

OTM

Sundar, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:19 (nine years ago) Permalink

actually not OTM

latebloomer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:27 (nine years ago) Permalink

NOTM

jhøshea, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

IIOTMOII?IDK

I know, right?, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:50 (nine years ago) Permalink

DYK?

I know, right?, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:51 (nine years ago) Permalink

Swans, on the merit of their older material. Once they delved into the goth/folk stuff *dodges bottles* they lost me.

I dig old SY about equally, but I want to see Swans get creamed.

circa1916, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:51 (nine years ago) Permalink

*don't want

circa1916, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 22:51 (nine years ago) Permalink

nobody hurts you like a cop with a club.
nobody rapes you like a cop with a club.

ian, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 23:41 (nine years ago) Permalink

in jail

sexyDancer, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 23:47 (nine years ago) Permalink

I really want to vote for Swans (especially as Jarboe is a client and personal friend). But I haven't stopped listening to the first three SY albums since high school. That staying power is inarguable.

I wish they'd broken up after Evol. That's the event horizon where they could no longer escape de-evolution.

And yes, over 30.

Nate Carson, Tuesday, 27 November 2007 23:50 (nine years ago) Permalink

Apparently. From a 1987 interview:

THURSTON: ... she's like, she used to live in New York, she went out with a friend of ours for a while, and I won't tell you who, because you know who it is. And she was in this band called "Spinal...", this weird Gang-of-Four-ish new wave band, with these kids who were in Deep Six, Circus Mort, who turned into the Swans. I mean, there's a weird connection there; so she is actually part of the Swans thing.

S: Madonna is part of the whole Swans trip? This has the makings of a real underground Weekly World News story. . .

THURSTON: Weekly Weird News.

S: A real news flash: Madonna went out with Michael Gira, we have pictures.

THURSTON: Why Michael Gira?

S: Well, I don't know, you said she was hanging out with the Swans, I mean...

THURSTON: Well, you can't say Michael Gira, 'cause he'd be offended. Michael Gira would be very offended.

KIM: Yeah, he's a very private person.

jaymc, Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:12 (nine years ago) Permalink

haha!

Mark Clemente, Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

not high, jaymc. jest jokin'

6335, Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

Did people who hate on later Swans listen to the last three albums, which were fucking raging full-on?

J0hn D., Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

i wish i could be all cool and badass and pick the swans but i like sonic youth better.

M@tt He1ges0n, Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:39 (nine years ago) Permalink

I dig Sonic Youth but I digest one of their albums I lose all desire to listen to it ever again. Swans albums keep giving more and more. So I am not being badass by picking Swans. I just like their music more.

This is another thread were Alex, who I think is my age & was probably listening to all the exact same shit as me in the mid-eighties, says "fuck you, this excellent music is not goth" and I say "it's very excellent but all the goths loved it & there probably would have been less of it if the goths hadn't kept the whole enterprise afloat" and we go around like that. "Goth" for some people means "music I don't like" I think.

J0hn D., Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

Christ I can't spell tonight

J0hn D., Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

alex loves a lot of goth music. he just has a fear of the goth label. or he doesn't want people to think he's goth. or he hates goth people. something like that.

scott seward, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:09 (nine years ago) Permalink

ý buy mýne clothes at hot topýc is teh goth?

Bo Jackson Overdrive, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

sonic youth were definitely one of my favorite bands circa 1985 to 1988 or so. swans have been one of my favorite bands from 1985 till now. that's the difference for me. i NEVER stopped listening to swans. but i definitely stopped listening to my favorite sonic youth albums. and don't even OWN copies of my favorite sonic youth albums anymore. they were great. i will never deny that. and a great live band. swans/skin/etc just gave me so much more to tackle. and i never got tired of hearing whatever sounds gira came up with. i still say that he has NEVER made a bad album. or made music that i didn't find enjoyable in some way.

scott seward, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y176/edwardiii/lwtua.jpg

Edward III, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

LOL at Thurston suddenly seeming very afraid at the possibility of offending Michael Gira.

circa1916, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:23 (nine years ago) Permalink

gira doesn't seem like the type who would hold a grudge

Edward III, Thursday, 29 November 2007 01:26 (nine years ago) Permalink

alex loves a lot of goth music. he just has a fear of the goth label. or he doesn't want people to think he's goth. or he hates goth people. something like that.

"Goth" is a pejorative that entirely applies to idiots like Strawberry Switchblade and London After Midnight and the Sex Gang Children and stuff like that. Don't get me wrong, I *LOVE* a lot of Goth bands (notably the `Nephilim and the Mission and the like), but certain bands exude a great deal more depth, promise and ability -- and just because they HAPPEN to succumb to one or two of the trappings of what has lazily come to represent "goth," that should not mean they are similarly tarred with that pejorative.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 29 November 2007 03:18 (nine years ago) Permalink

in other words, SWANS (and Joy Division and Killing Joke and _____ [insert band name here]) deserve MORE RESPECT than to be simply written off as "goths".

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 29 November 2007 03:20 (nine years ago) Permalink

I love Sonic Youth, but Swans have hit me on a much deeper emotional level. I'm playing Soundtracks For The Blind right now, in fact and it's working wonders on my psyche.

Bimble, Thursday, 29 November 2007 03:21 (nine years ago) Permalink

I should add though that they are capable of hitting me on an equally emotional level even when they're noisy. They're beyond all rock and roll cliche's and trappings, whereas SY are really not.

Bimble, Thursday, 29 November 2007 03:23 (nine years ago) Permalink

That's interesting though Alex, I didn't understand before that you saw "goth" as a purely pejorative word. It kindof explains a lot.

Bimble, Thursday, 29 November 2007 03:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

now tell me about your father

Edward III, Thursday, 29 November 2007 04:02 (nine years ago) Permalink

I'm too much of a pussy to like the Swans much, I guess. Gimme my watered-down, sub-no-wave, post-hippie jam muzik, thanx.

xp x ?

Gof - the life-style choice of tru poseurs!

JN$OT, Thursday, 29 November 2007 09:24 (nine years ago) Permalink

Having cloth ears != being a pussy.

Noodle Vague, Thursday, 29 November 2007 09:27 (nine years ago) Permalink

sez, mr. vague?

JN$OT, Thursday, 29 November 2007 09:29 (nine years ago) Permalink

everybody in new york circa 1980-82 w/a tangential connection to the music scene has a madonna story. the number of guys she "dated" must be astronomical!

some of their early gigs were like this thread title -- swans "VS" sonic youth, a noize battle unto the death.

i always liked sonic youth better but remain in awe at the gira's musical progression over time, inspiring.

m coleman, Thursday, 29 November 2007 11:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

Strawberry Switchblade

lolol

onimo, Thursday, 29 November 2007 11:32 (nine years ago) Permalink

You missed the bit about The Mission having more depth than them.

aldo, Thursday, 29 November 2007 11:35 (nine years ago) Permalink

That Rose McDowall is such a poseur eh?

Noodle Vague, Thursday, 29 November 2007 11:39 (nine years ago) Permalink

I love the Mish, but "depth" isn't something I'd expect from a band singing about Faerie Rings and Wastelands.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 29 November 2007 14:58 (nine years ago) Permalink

Sonic Youth, because they were quite simply the better band.

That said, I agree with Edward III that Live Skull were better than either SY or Swans.

But then I would also argue that Savage Republic were better than Sonic Youth or Swans or Live Skull.

And then there's Nice Strong Arm.

At which point it gets tricky......

PhilK, Thursday, 29 November 2007 21:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

SWANS completely crush Nice Strong Arm. There is no contest. There is no debate. There is no funeral. There is no apology. Just the merciless, humiliating crushing of Nice Strong Arm.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 29 November 2007 22:12 (nine years ago) Permalink

Everything post "Reality Bath" yes. But "Reality Bath", no. That really is an extraordinary record.

PhilK, Thursday, 29 November 2007 22:13 (nine years ago) Permalink

do swans use special goth grip to accomplish this crushing? i have heard the the nice arm is quite strong and crush-resistant. thank you. i am interested in this information.

jhøshea, Thursday, 29 November 2007 22:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

ILX System, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 00:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

Just wanted to add my voice to the multitude and add that I feel SWANS' covers were better too.

Gendou Ikari, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 19:16 (nine years ago) Permalink

yea i'm feeling swans, too, and i love sonic youth (at least the 80s albums, as i've mentioned previously). when i started the thread i figured it'd be a good fight but that SY would come out on top. i'm not so sure now, maybe swans have got a shot...

Mark Clemente, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 19:25 (nine years ago) Permalink

Xpost: "But then I would also argue that Savage Republic were better than Sonic Youth or Swans or Live Skull."
I, for one, would agree.

SY, somewhat grudgingly, as I don't have much time for their post 80's output. But I have none at all for Gira, when all is said and done.

Soukesian, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 20:06 (nine years ago) Permalink

"Reality Bath" is ok, but it's so badly recorded (double drums never sounded more like double cardboard boxes) that there's no way it's extraordinary. A shame, actually. xpost.

This thread had me pulling out the Cop/Young God era Swans for the first time in a while...made great background music while walking around the upper east side on a wintry day.

dlp9001, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 20:26 (nine years ago) Permalink

Running the likes of Savage Republic (Live Skull, Dust Devils or whatever) against early SY & Swans, I guess you've got fair fight, but they burned out to early to match the breadth/depth the latter acheived over time. I love Savage Republic, too, but I think I only listen to them so much nowadays 'cuz I've played SY to death.

Bob Standard, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 20:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

I was thinking something like that: I could put together a six-song Dustdevils or Rat at Rat R compilation that I like more than any six-song SY/Swans thing, but you're talking 2-4 albums vs. a huge career.

dlp9001, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 20:33 (nine years ago) Permalink

Speaking of SWANS on the Upper East Side, did I ever mention the time I ran into Michael Gira in (preppie apparel enclave) Brooks Brothers?

Alex in NYC, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 22:38 (nine years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

ILX System, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 00:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

close!

Mark Clemente, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 01:47 (nine years ago) Permalink

i like the story alex. from what i've heard he's quite pleasant in person.

Mark Clemente, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 01:49 (nine years ago) Permalink

SWANS completely crush Nice Strong Arm. There is no contest. There is no debate. There is no funeral. There is no apology. Just the merciless, humiliating crushing of Nice Strong Arm.

Alex, I have been reading your posts for most of the 21st century so far, and this one is one of my favorites. Add another beer to the tally of beers I owe you.

J0hn D., Wednesday, 5 December 2007 03:26 (nine years ago) Permalink

I don't think I've ever heard Nice Strong Arm, but I'm 100% convinced by this argument.

Nate Carson, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 03:29 (nine years ago) Permalink

lurkers win again

rogermexico., Wednesday, 5 December 2007 15:08 (nine years ago) Permalink

eleven months pass...

I like both bands,but SY only few early LPs and some songs in the rest of the albums,SWNAS are extreme experience and evolution to the cosmos at the end of his career I think,wante d live video shows!

almudeno, Thursday, 6 November 2008 13:25 (eight years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...

LOL

flappy bird, Thursday, 18 May 2017 05:01 (two months ago) Permalink

If we make this a live poll, it's Swans by a ridiculous margin. And because of that, I pick Swans anyway. Bonus points for having a better sense of when to stop. Double bonus points for better deployment of arguably embarrasing female member. Triple bonus points because Skin/World of Skin is better than any Sonic Youth side project. And so on...

Over 30, but of course.

― dlp9001, Tuesday, November 27, 2007 8:34 PM (nine years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

https://phatfriend.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/dr_drew_281x211.jpg

nomar, Thursday, 18 May 2017 06:12 (two months ago) Permalink

Apparently Gira and Moore didn't speak for years, but they're cool with each other now and Thurston is appearing at a Swans show in London soon. So there's that.

heaven parker (anagram), Thursday, 18 May 2017 08:34 (two months ago) Permalink


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