Technological innovations over the past 10 years have changed the entire concert experience. There was a time where filming or tape recording a concert were frowned upon. In fact, there was an entire episode of What’s Happening? in the mid-70s that focused on the perils of bootlegging concerts (featuring The Doobie Brothers!). But in today’s concert setting, people pull out their phones to live tweet, take pictures, and film with nary a glance from security or venue staff. I myself get annoyed by the iPhone Army present at most shows, many patrons spending more time checking their Facebook status update about seeing the band than actually watching them. I don’t mind patrons taking a moment to snap a picture, but when it turns into a photo shoot, I have a problem.
Several years ago I saw Broken Social Scene at SXSW and before even playing a song, front man Kevin Drew gave a speech along the lines of “Instead of trying to capture this concert through videos and photos, let’s just enjoy the moment and let our memories encapsulate it.” This was a big moment for me since I’d spent the past year filming a lot of shows for this blog (one look at my YouTube page and you’ll see there’s been a major falloff in video posts since that show). Up-and-coming British post-punk band Savages have taken it a step further, requiring all patrons to turn off their phones or the band won’t play.
A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my Top 40 Albums of 2012 (check it out here). The first half of the list is always easier to compile than the final 20. With this, the top half of the list, I find myself swapping albums from one spot to the next, trying to refine my list to the perfect order. Of course, this “perfect order” is never truly found. On one day I’d much rather listen to my number 17 than my number 5 and vice versa. I can promise you, all of these albums are fantastic. In order to come up with a definitive order, I took into account the overall significance of an album, not just which has the best collection of songs, but which is the perfect album – the themes, the order of the songs, the cultural significance. Within those parameters, I had no doubt what would be the number one album of 2012. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
[Young God; 2012]
This is what I originally intended to be the entire album review for the Swan’s latest opus The Seer. And really, this is all that needs to be said. These two words capture the overwhelming swells of sound, the enormity of the two-hour double album, and the response that anyone is apt to have to the songs on the album, whether it be “Holy fuck! This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard!” or “Holy fuck! What is this noise!?” With tracks that range from one minute to 32-minutes, The Seer is certainly a polarizing affair, showing the band unabashedly pursuing their ultimate vision, 30 years in the making.
It is an album of big noise, colossal environments, and heavy themes. It is violent while still being delicate. It is demoralizing while still being uplifting. It is unforgiving while still being compassionate. It is barbaric while constantly evolving. It is John Lennon’s scream therapy spread out over two straight hours of complete and utter euphoric confusion. It will make your head and heart tremble with sensory overload just as much as the wall of sound will make your window panes commence to vibrating uncontrollably. It is an auditory Smaug, filled with mirth, greed, and a vengeful spirit. It is a BEAST.