FAILURE — a word that is uttered repeatedly in the movie Where Does a Body End?, a rock doc/love letter dedicated to one of the greatest musical forces ever: Swans.
Failure is the word Swans’ head honcho Michael Gira uses to describe the deep-rooted motivation that has propelled and guided him, dating back to when the band first inflicted itself on audiences in 1981. Directed by Marco Porsia, this movie is as good as it gets, especially if you’ve ever surrendered to the pummel of Gira and co and want to take the experience home with you.
Where Does a Body End? made the festival circuit last year before coming to your favourite digital platforms last month, but you’ll definitely want the physical DVD release — this film begs multiple viewings.
You’ll be swept off your feet early on by the classic footage of the band clearing rooms, leaving only a smattering of stunned people behind. In the early ’80s, no band was more pummeling, disturbing, beautiful and feared as Swans. This extremely rare early footage is nothing short of a revelation and includes shots of Gira’s squalid living conditions where his disturbing early artwork adorned the walls of his crumbling “bunker” in Alphabet City, in New York City’s Lower East Side. Gira seemed to be fuelled by the violent crime swirling just outside of his door frame in that era, as well as the hopelessness and poverty that marked the area and declared it bankrupt — financially and morally. Songs like “I Crawled” and “Weakling” could only come from these depths.
From there, it’s a wild ride. Porsia’s greatest strength is knowing full well that everybody lining up for this film has already had transcendental moments with the music and gearing the film towards the converted. The film documents Gira’s traumatic teenage journey marked by drugs and jail before punk rock came knocking and he found his temporary spiritual home. Like a Swans show, the film is an exhaustive 2.5 hours and moves at a quick pace on an album by album basis. If you don’t know who Swans are, I suggest you go back to the Spotify account that spawned you; but for the rest of us who worship at the feet of one of the greatest bands to ever rumble the underground, this comes as nothing short of a revelation. Stream it if you must but a film this good deserves a special place in your home.
Okay, in keeping with the contests I’ve been stuffing into this humble little column that helps put the ink on yer mitts, it’s time for another one!! When I asked one of the stalwarts of this crumbling industry, Clint Weiler from MVD video, if he was able to supply some swag, he actually one-upped it and insisted on giving away an uber rare two-disc deluxe blu-ray edition of Where Does a Body End? Holy fuckaroo!!! Over 153 minutes of bonus footage is collected on a second disc that regular chumps will never see (until somebody uploads it). Okay post-rockers, start yer engines and get your digits nimble: The first person who can email me with the correct name of Michael Gira’s label will grip it.
Next month: A look at the massive 40th anniversary box set dedicated to one of the greatest metal/punk records of all fuggin’ time. Don’t blink!!! ■
For more about Where Does a Body End?, please visit the official website.
See previous editions of Hammer of the Mods here.