(Like fellow New Yorkers Talking Heads, Swans didn't use the word "the" in their name.)
Their early music is typified by slow and grinding guitar noise, punctuated by Gira's morbid and violent shouted lyrics. Critic Ned Ragget describes Swans' first recordings as "aggressive beyond words."
1986's Greed saw a new addition to the group with vocalist Jarboe joining the band. Her presence began a slow thawing in the overt masculine energy of Swan's early work. Children of God (1987) further expanded Jarboe's role, acting as a foil to Michael Gira's tales of suffering, torture and humiliation. The almost Baroque "In My Garden" added an extra dimension with piano and acoustic guitar.
The Burning World (1989) was the first -- and only -- major label album for The Swans. Released on MCA and produced by Bill Laswell it further added to the acoustic element found in Greed. However the album has been regarded by some fans as a major disappointment, as the much of the original line up was replaced by session musicians and the distinctive heavy guitar element of their earlier work toned down significantly in favor of folk and world music elements. It was the first Swans album to feature more conventional pop melodies, though Gira's lyrics still favored themes of depression, death, greed and despair, actually sung, rather than the chanting or shouting typical of earlier material.
Michael Gira's disillusionment with their MCA exploits led to White Light From the Mouth of Infinity (1991), a successful blending of earlier hard rock and later pop styles. Produced by Gira, the album blended acoustic rock, blues and hypnotic guitar noise successfully, producing an album more complex than anything they had released in the past. This album was followed by Great Annihilator in 1995.
With other projects occupying his time, Michael Gira decided to bring an end to the group with one last album and world tour. Soundtracks for the Blind (1996) was the result. A mammoth double album comprised of live recordings, electronic soundscapes, brutal noise-rock epics and acoustic guitar solos, Gira, Jarboe and other long time collaborators created one of the best regarded albums of their career. Swans are Dead (1998) brings together live recordings from their 1995 and 1997 tours, documenting the energy and stage presence of Michael Gira and Jarboe.
After disolving Swans, Gira formed Angels of Light.