Chain & The Gang
Music’s not for Everyone
Ian Svenonius mixes heavy theory and conceptualizin’ with unfettered practice better than any other figure in modern music. He’s been setting off rhetorical molotov cocktails for going on two decades, concealing them artfully in feral garage punk with Nation of Ulysses, James Brown-goes-Commie in the Make Up, and psychedelic freakouts in the supergroup Weird War. Now the Spiv has assumed a new persona for a new band, Chain & The Gang. Trading in sweaty soul workouts for melancholy, baroque proto-mod blues and his unrestrained yowl of id for a codeined, gothic baritone, Music’s not for Everyone is gonna be a headscratcher for even the most fervent disciples at the Church of Yeh Yeh.
Listening repeatedly, I’m reminded of everyone from Junior Kimbrough to Rod McKuen and Dion and the Belmonts. Great range. Grimy, haunted guitar lines mesh with handclaps, cool jazz-inflected electric piano, and rock solid funk percussion. The general pacing is slow and insinuating — a thick blanket of reverb covers everything. The Makeup’s fire of old flickers briefly on “Livin’ Rough” and the caveman brilliant “Detroit Music,” where Ian howls and yelps subhumanly while delivering a straightforward instructional session on making Detroit rock/soul (“First they put the tambourine on the drums,” etc.).
There are weirdbeard conceptual workouts like the title track, this kinda Beefheartian haunting, spoken word exorcism that kinda (“I know you wanna share/but don’t”) encourages musical elitism. Well, it’s more nuanced than that, but hell man, anti-populism might be where it’s at. Again, this album is gonna be a hard nut to crack, the lack of firebombin’ is gonna be mistaken for torpor, and it’s gonna feel like a conceptual art experiment wrapped in gritty and distorted folk-blues… and that’s okay. Cuz music’s not for everyone.