Ian Svenonius is either a master of
the ironic stance, a musical agent provocateur, or he’s an abrasive guy who
knows how to strike a pose. The press release for Chain and the Gang begins,
“Everywhere that liberty goes, it leaves a path of destruction.” It goes on to
describe the band as such: “Like a true chain gang, they’re on the road to
confront and defy any freedom-lovers that come across their path.” Coming from
the guy who brought us Nation of Ulysses, among other bands, you have to wonder
how much of this he believes and how much spoofs serious musical agendas.
The same thoughts of “Is he serious?”
pop up during the songs, especially since the lyrics often come up like the
thoughts of a young angst-ridden guy who still figured out how to channel his
thoughts. “I want reparations from the
government/ I want reparations from the school/ I want reparations from the tv/
I want reparations from you,” he sings on “Reparations” which busts into a taut
soul-garage chorus as the band cheers him like a congregation. Yeah, it’s kind
of ridiculous, but it’s pretty catchy too.
Recorded at Dub Narcotic with members
of various bands helping out, the album has an intimate, slinky feel in the
rhythm section that frequently gets mileage from girl-group backing vocals and
some simple but infectious saxophone riffs. “Interview with the Chain Gang”
doesn’t quite come off because the monotone indie girl reading rhymed questions
sounds too hip even for a spoof. But most of the album strikes a good balance
between irreverent and irresistible.
“What Is A Dollar,” “Unpronounceable Name” MIKE SHANLEY