Chain and the Gang Minimum Rock N Roll
Published Apr 15, 2014Ian 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.
"I want the middle class to feel alone/ Like strangers in their own home," he sings on the nihilistic "Devitalize," where nothing is safe. Safety and comfort is the enemy of "crime rock," which co-vocalist Katie Alice highlights by sarcastically whispering, "Keep it down," during the aforementioned song. The overall sound here is a highly stylized blast of underground, infectious punk that draws from single-car garage rock; it's cool but economical, it makes you dance but, if all is right with you, it should also make you think.
On songs like "Never Been Properly Loved" or "I'm a Choice (Not a Child)," it's hard to tell if the romanticized notions of freedom via Wall-of-Sound girl-group wails is meant to recall or lambast a more innocent time (i.e. 50 years ago). Should our parents and their parents have been better informed? How did we end up in this quagmire of access that makes us so knowledgeable and yet so distrustful of everyone else? Chain and the Gang want to test us a bit with these questions and also mindfuck us while they're at it. Why else would they critique our blind/bland allegiance to pre-fab food and culture by hypnotizing us with the groove and melody of "Stuck in a Box?"
The band is obsessed with packaging and how it leads us astray and they exhibit this interest by designing every song here to be an indisputable hit. Minimum Rock N Roll is a dynamic and vibrant good-time screed; it's not anti-consumption but it is out to have people consume discerningly. As it happens, Chain and the Gang have got the good shit. (Radical Elite/Dischord)