Release Date: Apr 14, 2014
Record label: Radical Elite
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Experimental Rock
Ian Svenonius and Chain and the Gang return with yet another essential stab at complacent mediocrity on this stirring, timeless-yet-contemporary new LP. As one of punk's most flashy and outspoken manifesto writers, Svenonius has long been drawn to danger in his work, promising a sea change against normalcy to all those who'd most want it to happen. On his latest batch of songs, he extols the virtues of "crime rock," a tough new generic signifier that's an extension of the hopeful threats against society that Svenonius has been making for more than 20 years in bands like the Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up.
Once again, Ian Svenonius is here to tell us everything we know is wrong on the fourth album from Chain & the Gang -- he doesn't want to make rock & roll bigger and tougher, he wants it to get leaner and more slippery, and that's just what he and his comrades do on Minimum Rock N Roll, with a set of stripped-back, soulful rock & roll that's full of smarts and subversion. Svenonius doesn't want to revitalize the city, he wants to devitalize the gentrifiers; he upends anti-feminist jargon while romancing his lady by telling her he's a choice, not a child; he rejects consumer culture by reminding us everything truly worth getting is already gone; and reveals that love is his only crime before putting the title concept to work in a song so sparse that it pretty much couldn't exist if any single element were removed. As with most of Svenonius' work, Minimum Rock N Roll is about concept as much as execution, but the thinking behind it is clever, and he knows how to take classic rock and R&B tropes and bend them just enough that they take on new and unexpected shapes.
Chain & The Gang evoke so many sexy rock and roll bands (but mainly The Fall) that it’s hard to believe you haven’t heard them before, even though you think you have. For those of you familiar with their riotous blend of bass-heavy post-punk and filthy garage rock, well done you for being so well-listened. Those of you unfamiliar with their sound would be advised to groove along to your local record vendor and seek out In Cool Blood and Down With Liberty…Up With Chains at your soonest convenience.
Chain & the Gang are not so much a band as a bullhorn for Ian Svenonius, their frontman and fulcrum. Svenonius is indie rock’s own version of the writer Jonathan Meades – outspoken but erudite, thoughtful and enlightened yet impishly irreverent – and he has a knack for tackling weighty ideas in an offhand manner that might give you cause to doubt his sincerity. At this stage though, 15 albums into his career, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Ian Svenonius has been the saviour of rock n roll for over twenty five years now…. when will anyone start listening to the man? The tousle-headed punk has been throwing slogans, political rhetoric, records, books and talk shows at us since he formed Nation of Ulysses back in 1988 with fellow DC heroes Steve Kroner, Steve Gamboa, James Canty and Tim Green before going to form The Make-Up, Weird War and, finally, Chain and the Gang. Some might argue there’s been diminishing returns as the years have rolled on, and while there’s some truth in that you’d really have to go a long, long way to better albums like 13-Point Program to Destroy America or Destination: Love – Live! At Cold Rice for Marxist agit-prop gospel rock ‘n’ roll.
Apparently, President John F. Kennedy had to get laid at least once every day. If he didn't - he informed friends and political confidantes - he became immediately besieged by searing migraines which, when suffered in conjunction with the myriad spinal, renal, and muscular ailments with which he was afflicted, rendered him unable to perform (cerebrally, at least) in office.