SWORDS 'We're back and ready to sing.'

Fri Sept 9
Berbati's Pan
231 SW Ankeny

THERE WAS A TIME not long ago when reviewers downplayed Swords (now sans Project) singing. Their press talked about prog and dropped names like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But singing—nah. Song structure—not even. ("One wonders why the band sends bassist Corey Fickens up to the microphone at all" wrote Pitchfork.) This wasn't a bad thing. More so, critics—and fans—seemed in love with the idea of Swords making difficult epics with collective band politics and nary a thought given to things like lyrics or pop sensibilities.

All that's changed with their new CD. Metropolis shows a much-matured Swords—their mega-layered beauties given direction, confident vocals, and maybe (big maybe) a chance at radio. But where a lot of bands might do the same thing and lose their creative spirit, Metropolis just sounds more realized. The first track doesn't waste time, kicking in fast with an icy, grandiose tidal wave of electronic fizzles, guitar chimes, and Fickens singing "so here we are/out in the open/in broad daylight" as if to say, "This is what we sound like now. Stick with us... or split." Next one, "The Mark," and the track after that, are towering radio rockers, with druggy washes of electronics and zero instrumental clichés. (Which is where the band's always excelled: Unpredictability as a maxim.)

The record doesn't slow down until the unnamed fifth track, which is all spectral laptop noise and haunted guitar echoes. It's a sigh before the smack, though, because track six follows it with rock, and continues until the last song, which is nothing but a quiet, spacious comedown. So when Metropolis drops locally on Tuesday, will the hip masses cry foul? Will fans of all things inaccessible take torches to Swords' Frankensteinian castle? If they do, they'll be missing out big.