14 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Part bar-band shouter, part soapbox preacher, Ian Svenonius leads Chain & the Gang through a trashy yet sincere mix of tunes on Music’s Not for Everyone. The former lead singer of The Make-Up holds forth with the help of such K Records labelmates as multi-instrumentalist Arrington De Dionyso, vocalist Tara Jane O’Neil, organist Brian Weber, and producer Calvin Johnson. The mood here is loose and playful, with Svenonius imparting words of wisdom amid a ‘60s-slanted mélange of garage rock, vintage soul, and gospel. Tracks like “For Practical Purposes (I Love You)” and “Bill for the Use of My Body” take a look at love’s more absurd complications. Svenonius offers sobering advice about the unfairness of life in “Youth Is Wasted on the Young” and “Not Good Enough (Dub)” while asserting his own status as a celebrity in “(I’ve Got) Privilege.” Ragged rockers like “Livin’ Rough” and “Why Not?” recall Johnny Thunders at his most charmingly ragged, while “It’s a Hard, Hard Job (Keeping Everybody High)” has a low-budget bluesiness that suggests Jonathan Richman covering Ray Charles.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Part bar-band shouter, part soapbox preacher, Ian Svenonius leads Chain & the Gang through a trashy yet sincere mix of tunes on Music’s Not for Everyone. The former lead singer of The Make-Up holds forth with the help of such K Records labelmates as multi-instrumentalist Arrington De Dionyso, vocalist Tara Jane O’Neil, organist Brian Weber, and producer Calvin Johnson. The mood here is loose and playful, with Svenonius imparting words of wisdom amid a ‘60s-slanted mélange of garage rock, vintage soul, and gospel. Tracks like “For Practical Purposes (I Love You)” and “Bill for the Use of My Body” take a look at love’s more absurd complications. Svenonius offers sobering advice about the unfairness of life in “Youth Is Wasted on the Young” and “Not Good Enough (Dub)” while asserting his own status as a celebrity in “(I’ve Got) Privilege.” Ragged rockers like “Livin’ Rough” and “Why Not?” recall Johnny Thunders at his most charmingly ragged, while “It’s a Hard, Hard Job (Keeping Everybody High)” has a low-budget bluesiness that suggests Jonathan Richman covering Ray Charles.

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About Chain & The Gang

Offering a funky, stripped-down fusion of indie pop, funk, garage punk, and lo-fi experimentalism, Chain & the Gang are a vehicle for the thoughts and talents of Ian Svenonius -- musician, author, actor, Internet talk show host, and frontman with the groups Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up, Scene Creamers, and Weird War. Like many of Svenonius' earlier projects, Chain & the Gang are a band with an overriding philosophy; as Svenonius sees it, freedom and liberty have been used by the lazy and corrupt to pollute the environment, promote greed, pit class against class, fill our cities with ugly buildings, and stuff our faces with greasy fast food, so the time has come for us to embrace a new sort of bondage and seek out convicts, hobos, and other outlaws as spiritual brethren. Svenonius has filled his new band with a handful of noted indie rock musicians, including Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me, Brian Weber of Dub Narcotic Sound System, Brett Lyman of Bad Thoughts, and Sarah Pedal of Seahorse Liberation Army.

Chain & the Gang made their recorded debut with the album Down with Liberty...Up with Chains!, released by K Records in April 2009. To support the album's release, Chain & the Gang set out on a North American tour with the Hive Dwellers, a new band featuring K Records founder and Beat Happening/Halo Benders/Dub Narcotic Sound System leader Calvin Johnson; as it happens, the Hive Dwellers feature the same backing musicians as Chain & the Gang, with Johnson replacing Svenonius as lead vocalist. After splitting time between his many other endeavors, including hosting Vice's Soft Focus, Svenonius returned to the ranks of Chain & the Gang to release Music's Not for Everyone in 2011. Chain & the Gang switched gears with 2012's In Cool Blood, not only recording in mono for the first time but also shifting the lyrical focus more toward youthful mischief than the band's philosophical-leaning past.

For the group's fourth album, 2014's Minimum Rock 'n' Roll, Svenonius unveiled a new edition of the group, with Brett Lyman returning on guitar alongside new members Chris Sutton on bass, Fiona Campbell on drums, and Katie Alice Greer on vocals. Svenonius wasn't done making changes with the group; in 2017, Chain & the Gang had yet another new lineup, with Svenonius joined by guitarist Francy Z. Graham, bassist Anna Nasty, and drummer and keyboard player Mark Cisneros. This edition made its recorded debut on the 2017 album Best of Crime Rock, which featured re-recordings of some of the group's best-known songs alongside three new tunes. It was also Chain & the Gang's first album for In the Red Records after a long relationship with K Records. ~ Mark Deming

  • ORIGIN
    Washington DC
  • FORMED
    2008

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