The Wild Swans – Bringing Home the Ashes

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I am not sure how it is that I came across this minor bit of late ‘80s British indie. I think I learned about the Wild Swans – what a terrible name – through a Sire Records sampler (Just Say Yes) purchased in order to own the Smiths’ lazy and uninspired “Work is a Four Letter Word.” The band has a complicated history which is essentially that the original incarnation lasted from 1980-82 with minimal output, and then core member Paul Simpson and surviving guitarist Jeremy Kelly reformed the band in 1986 and released debut album Ashes in 1988. That incarnation – with significant personnel changes – lasted until 1990. Apparently, Simpson then disowned the debut and eventually formed a third version of the band in 2009, still chasing the alleged magic from the first version (which, again, barely recorded anything). Simpson was previously in the Teardrop Explodes with Julian Cope (and had collaborated in an earlier band with Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen)); also, Bunnymen drummer Pete deFreitas (under an alias) played on the first Wild Swans single.

What I Think of This Album

Right off the bat, you notice that Simpson has an excellent voice:  he sings in a rich, dramatic baritone dripping with import and suspense. And whether his voice pulls the songs into its orbit – one of grand statements and grandiose presentation – or whether his voice simply suits songs that already conveyed majesty and emotion is an interesting but ultimately unimportant question. The point is that this sounds fantastic. There is a spiritual (and as this is Western music, that reduces to Christian) aspect to some of this, but it’s only slightly distracting and frankly, fits with the mood and delivery of the songs. But overall, the songs are about big issues like Hope and War and Love and Despair and they are of course sung that way. Kelly does an excellent job on guitar and he and whoever is playing the keyboards craft catchy, compelling, and sturdy songs that amply cushion and elevate Simpson’s soaring vocals.

There is no point going through each or any of the tracks in detail – the entire album through, the guitars chime and cascade, the drums snap and pound, the keyboard shimmer and swoop, and Simpson sounds like Morgan Freeman if he went to art school in Liverpool. Why Simpson ended up criticizing this album is a mystery to me (their follow-up to this was the one he should be embarrassed by – it was . . . not good).

The Best Thing About This Album

Simpson’s voice. Obviously.

Release Date

1988

The Cover Art

I like the little logo tucked away in the lower right hand corner, and that should have been the focus of the cover, instead of this ridiculous, murky portrait. The text box is atrocious and the reprinted lyric is beyond insufferable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑