There’s something wildly life affirming about this song, and it’s not the title lyric. It’s the pure sound of it, the melody played out in chiming bells and wordless coos. It could be the centerpiece of a hit pop song, but it’s buried in the gothic fire of Swans‘ best album.
White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity was a giant turning point for the band. Michael Gira’s brutal no wave assault had warped into something altogether more epic and strange for Children of God, but they followed it up with a major label experiment that completely flopped, almost capsizing the project. Instead, Swans regrouped and doubled down an a stunning new incarnation of their sound that can only be dubbed apocalyptic folk.
It’s the music played by people witnessing the destruction of our world. There’s a fragile, hard-fought beauty that shines through the craggy mountains of violent guitars and waves of gnostic reverb. The music is as hard as it gets, invoking the raw power of noisy metal while utilizing a palette that couldn’t be further removed. The actual textures here are often glistening, playful, echoed to the heavens. It’s brutal music that softens its impact with analgesic charm.
The inescapable centerpiece is singer Michael Gira’s booming tenor, intoning love and loss and failure like a street preacher announcing the end of days. He reaches across lightning-kicked plains as they burst into flame, a warm embrace as the familiar world crumbles. When he proclaims over and over that love will save you, we believe him. He’s offering salvation for once, and it feels so good. But the feeling is undercut as the narrator finishes with bitterness: but it won’t save me.
For years, the one downside of loving this album so much was the fact that it’s been largely unavailable since its release way back in 1991. Of course I had a digital copy courtesy of the internet, but Gira’s record label never made an effort to reissue White Light as they had done with many others from the band’s three decade history. It was suspected that the man himself wasn’t proud of this effort, which always seemed strange. When Swans went on hiatus a few years later, Gira’s second band, The Angels Of Light, sounded directly sprung from this specific sound. Regardless of the reasons, it wasn’t seeing the light of day again, and I could never own a copy.
In a turn of fantastic news (and possible indication that the necessity of making a living outweighed his personal tastes) Gira let the world know that White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity is being reissued on vinyl in a box set with 1992’s also-out-of-print Love Of Life, and it’s coming this December. When I heard, I felt ecstatic. “Finally he sees the light,” and other terrible puns ran through my head. The page notes that the set will include not only a CD bonus disc of outtakes, but the original paintings by Deryk Thomas that served as each album’s distinctive artwork.
I love this stuff:
If you’re a fan of this era, you need to get on the Young God site and order it. The albums are going to be available separately after the box set sells out, and the set itself will also be a 3 CD package for those who don’t do vinyl. After almost a decade of loving this album, it feels weird knowing I can finally own it. One more musical holy grail has been given to the unfortunate masses too young to have purchased the original.
Because I feel like they’re instructive, I leave you with the lyrics to Love Will Save You:
Love will save you when the ocean splits itself in two
Love will save you when the cold wind blows right through you
Love will save you when the poison eats the precious air
And love will save you from the snake that crawls around down there
But it won’t save me
Love will save you from the evil and the greed of ignorant men
And love will save you from the guilt you feel when you
betray your only friend
Love will save you from yourself when you lose control
And love will save you from all the lies your lover ever told you
But it won’t save me
Love will save you from the truth when you think you’re free
Love will save you from the cold light of boring reality
Love will save you from the corruption of your lazy-minded soul
And love will save you from your selfish and distorted goals
But it won’t save me
Love will save you from the black night and the lightning and the ghost
Love will save you from your misery, then tie you to the bloody post
Love will save you from the hands that pull you down beneath the sea
Love may save all you people, but it will never, never save me
No it won’t save me