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Yellow Swans - Bring the Neon War Home

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Artist: Yellow Swans

Album: Bring the Neon War Home

Label: Narnack

Review date: Dec. 7, 2004

Bring the Neon War Home is a powerful piece of music, but there’s no denying that much of its poignancy hinges on today’s prevailing political climate. 2004 has been one of those rare, charged years wherein even the most apolitical felt compelled to look outside themselves a little, watch The Daily Show occasionally, even vote. Bush’s once-distant idiocy assumed a more ominous tone in the context of an election year, turning even the frailest forums of left-wing media into active political entities. Suddenly tiny community papers were denouncing the President. Daytime soap stars plead viewers to vote. And esoteric, underground Bay Area noise duos conjured urgent, apocalyptic masterpieces.

In a possibly symbolic move, Yellow Swans quit their long-standing appellation vice – affixing a random word beginning with ‘d’ to their name, i.e. Dusk Yellow Swans – for Bring the Neon War Home (the band’s first on Broadway-based Narnack). The edit reflects the album’s stringent, serious agenda, which progresses through its five tracks with an almost cinematic sense of purpose. This is noise as narrative. Older releases, like the Demos Yellow Swans 12” on Weird Forest, used similar means – tape loops, guitar feedback – and contained equally convulsive crescendos and brooding pools of electric tension, but bled/morphed with much more of a languid, lost motion. Like submerged currents. Or blurred visions.

Neon War, however, is the sound of Yellow Swans seeing clearly. The production is incredibly crisp and clean, and many of the movements are driven by prominent drum machine rhythms, which are an oddly concrete element for such an immaterial, abstract band. The mechanized percussion harnesses their drifting noise clouds, tethering the chaos into a dense, claustrophobic space, much like Ministry used to do. In fact, “Police Eternity,” the dark, angry opener, is the kind of pummeling, goth-industrial hell-storm most Nine Inch Nails acolytes would die for.

From there, Yellow Swans bask back a little into the looming, resonant emptiness they’re such masters of, bashing out zig-zags of reverb eruptions and scraping metal arcs, slowly snowballing a murky mountain of rumble and rubble. “High On the Mountain of Love” is pure Yellow Swans – escapist, idealist, amorphous, amorous. It is all too brief.

Both the third song and the title track explode with more uncharacteristic darkwave dance beats, moody blips and beeps; neon shrapnel and dystopian delay-pedal declarations. The text accompanying “Neon War” could easily serve as this record’s aesthetic thesis statement: “Shake. Shake your death rattle. The Reagan era’s not over? Vietnam’s not over? Bring the war home. Bring the Drug war home. Bring the neon war home. Bring it all back home.” These are overt words from a covert band. Bring the Neon War Home is Yellow Swans’ Combat Rock. It’s their defiance, their demands, their stance, their circumstance. Decades from now, Bush will be just another history textbook monster, a bad memory, but this record will remain, and remind.

By Britt Brown

Other Reviews of Yellow Swans

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Psychic Secession

At All Ends / Decension Yellow Swans


Going Places

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Find out more about Narnack

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