ABOVE: SILVER SWANS’ ANN YU. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARREN DIFRANCO
San Francisco-based electropop duo Silver Swans, composed of producer and musician Jon Waters and vocalist and songwriter Ann Yu, may have acquired their name from fictional characters in Wonder Woman comics, but the band’s vision is anything but kitschy. In the stories, Silver Swans possess the superpower to create a sonic force field with their voices. These devastating “swan songs” are capable of either laying waste to a designated area of land or creating an invisible protective shield, in which they can also use their sound waves to rearrange matter. Yu and Waters have latterly designated themselves as guardians of The Smiths’ iconic anthem, “How Soon Is Now,” and we are pleased to premiere their cover here, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the original recording. The band released its sophomore album, TOUCH, late last year, and Silver Swans’ choice of “How Soon Is Now” is a surprising departure from their usual bouncy, feel-good pop with hints of disco. But as the song itself demonstrates, profundity can be refreshingly dynamic, engagingly effervescent with its own human flaw.
“I think I died a little when I heard ‘How Soon Is Now’ for the first time,” confesses Yu. “I didn’t know bands like this could exist. Hearing the Smiths for the first time, I found myself. We chose to cover this song as it is probably the darkest Smiths song both musically and lyrically. Covering the song was a chance for both Jon and I to reconnect with this nostalgia while adding our own vulnerable darkness to the mix.”
The original is as brilliant in its simplicity as it is delicately deliberate. Johnny Marr‘s wistful, synth-y vibrato on the single guitar chord introduces each repetition of Morrissey’s single verse and chorus, flanking them like vents. The lyrics describe a seemingly mundane occurrence: a man trying to overcome a fatal timidity to approach a potential lover in a Manchester gay club. Contrasted with the ecstasy-fueled hedonism of the ’80s, the words, “I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar / I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular” are at once specifically sentimental and generationally existential, clinically critical and desperately lonely.
Silver Swans’ cover uplifts and venerates these contradictions, introducing sonic booms that add a foreboding emphasis. Yu’s voice stretches over the lyrics, oscillating and floating in an ether above this underlying darkness like a chant. The original melody is preserved deep inside the mutations, emerging to lend a majestic solemnity to the track and gradually increasing with sawing intensity until the song abruptly ends. The band’s deeply personal relationship to the original song is apparent in their celebratory—rather than overtly personalized—approach to the cover. “Johnny Marr’s genius guitar sirens layered on top of Bo Diddley vibrato and Morrissey claiming the throne of shyness: ‘There’s a club if you’d like to go’…” Yu muses. “We’ve all been there.”
SILVER SWANS’ TOUCH IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.