It’s time for me to admit I enjoy reading promo blurbs. Every promo either talks about a revelation in an existing genre or about a band discovering a new genre altogether. Which makes sense; the label or band is trying to sell something and telling you you’re about to listen to something bland or utterly boring is not the world’s best selling-argument, right? Every now and then I’m surprised though. Like with Black Swift, a band operating from Germany and led by singer Sally Grayson. Apart from the interesting genre name they come up with (post-punkified americana ‘n’ roll) and the usual promo text they included a explanatory note on every lyric on their new album See Me Human. I like bands that have something to say, so including a message like this… well, they convinced me to listen with more care. However much I like the message, I’m here for the music, so let’s start with that.
Black Swift plays post-punk with a bunch of other influences. See Me Human starts with perhaps their strongest track “There Is More”. This is one catchy tune relying on heavy drumming and strong bass playing. Almost more punk than post-punk. Each song after this is slower and more gloomy than the one before. Second track “Bang! Bang!” is only a little slower and has a bit of a Ministry vibe over it. That vibe is mainly due to the sound the band employs here: the heavy distortion. It made me think of that Reverend Horton Heat album produced by Ministry mastermind Jourgensen (Liquor In The Front) which included one or two tracks where the Ministry influences shone through. That sound I hear in “Bang! Bang!” as well if that makes any sense. “Refuge” is again a bit slower and includes some gypsy or middle eastern influences. And so each song on See Me Human has it’s own distinct character. Black Swift really dragged me into their album with the subtle change of pace from song to song. Each song a bit slower and more mellow than the next. The only exception being “Know My Prequel”, which is a short rager of a song.
As I stated earlier I enjoy bands that have a strong message and boy, Black Swift is one of those bands. I loved reading the explanation of the lyrics of the songs found on See Me Human. Grayson, who was a candidate in The Voice in Germany, said in an interview for that show that she wanted to change the world through music. Well… the message is there, and it’s delivered. Grayson sings on very personal topics, but is not afraid to speak out when it comes to political themes, such as refugees. The leading theme in all her songs seem to be empathy. Empathy in small settings (friends and their hardships and friendship are topics dealt with), but also in a big context (everyone is equally valuable is the theme in “Mannish Girl” for example). Who couldn’t agree with her on that.
Considering how strong a selling point Graysons voice is, it’s astonishing I only mention it so far in the review. I’m a bit allergic to contests like The Voice, so I haven’t taken the time to figure out how Graysons The Voice adventure ended, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she got quite far. She can sing smooth, but also is not afraid to sound really strong.
So far nothing but praise for Black Swift, but I do see some issues to be resolved. In my mind there’s two ways to listen to music. Either you listen to single tracks or you listen to entire albums. I really prefer the latter. To enjoy a whole album the album needs one thing: flow. And that’s where I have a quarrel with this album. “Know My Prequel” really breaks the spell Black Swift tries to cast. And that’s a shame. It makes the last couple of tracks less strong as the band has to reel me in again instead of keeping me in the flow.
The other thing that bothers me is the lyrics. The fact they contain such a strong message can also be a downside. I’m still not sure if that got me into hardcore or if all those strong opinions made me think through my own standpoints. Oh well… I’m digressing. What bothers me here is that it seems the message is more important than the cadence and flow of the lyrics. That makes the message less strong and unfortunately also the songwriting as a whole.
Black Swift is not inventing the wheel on See Me Human, but I’m sure post-punk fans should give this album a spin. And if they can spare the time: the whole album, not just one or two songs!
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