Led by the remarkable Ian Svenonius, prime mover behind two of the most essential bands of our time, Nation Of Ulysses and The Make-Up, and author of two books, The Psychic Soviet and Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock 'n' Roll Group, not to mention online talk show host and auteur filmmaker, Chain And the Gang deal in a new genre called CRIME ROCK that updates rock n roll, blues, and gospel music or vocal quartets from the late 50s /early 60s for the discerning few.
As Ian himself puts it: “If asked about it by a prospective fan, I would say "Watch out; it might hurt your feelings." Or "Be careful … there's no telling what might happen if you put it in your ear." Why? Because Chain & The Gang isn't for everyone. It's not designed for the victims of Ikea who rely on robots to choose their background muzak. But it can also prove to be addictive and has some disturbing side effects.“
A gang with a fluid and floating active core, Minimum Rock N Roll was recorded in Portland Oregon with Ian and Katie Alice on vocals, Brett playing the electric guitar, Chris on electric bass guitar, and Fiona driving the drum kit and then mixed down in DC by Brendan Canty. More minimal and more ferocious, more lean and more mean, Minimum Rock N Roll is Chain & the Gang looking for food, hungry and intent on devouring the known world, once they find its tender underbelly.
The opening song DEVITALIZE is both topical and timeless. A call for de-evolution, disenfranchisement, total rejection of the worldwide trend of class war disguised as connoisseurship and good taste. Then the record goes pell-mell, bouncing from disco demands for love and affection (NEVER BEEN PROPERLY LOVED) to classic love songs (I'M A CHOICE (NOT A CHILD)); analog-electro stompers (STUCK IN A BOX); swamp-errific groovers (GOT TO HAVE IT EVERYDAY); incitements to silence in the face of surveillance and grotesque confessional culture (MUMS THE WORD); outlines of the Chain & the Gang music genre "Crime Rock" (CRIME DON'T PAY, WHAT ARE YOU IN HERE FOR?); a wordless explanation of Minimum Rock N Roll (MINIMUM ROCK N ROLL); a dance based on obscuring the pointless pretenders (CURTAIN PULL); and a lament about being late to the party (EVERYTHING WORTH GETTING IS GONE).
Svenonius again: “MINIMUM ROCK N ROLL is a challenge to all the tiresome groups with no content, no heart, no soul, no direction, who parade around like mediocres onstage with an inherited diagram of acceptable behavior. What are they striving towards? A slot at a festival? Chain & the Gang want it all. They want justice in this universe and the other ones in the other dimensions. And that starts with aesthetic justice. MRR is naked, raw, catalyst, creepy, crazy, cretinous..."crime rock". Minimum Rock n Roll uses fewer beats, fewer words, fewer ideas … "why pay more for unneeded words rhymes and riffs?" is the philosophy behind the album. It's a purely distilled rejection of the indie rock prescription for enforced brain dead, artless mediocrity.”
Minimum Rock N Roll is a protest against a world where everything is available… the internet's engorgement of the senses has bred a world that’s stupefied, self-satisfied and sedate. It’s time for a diet. This record is a kind of aural austerity! Barely any words! Hardly any beats! Fewer notes! Its just EXACTLY ENOUGH.
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“MINIMUM ROCK N ROLL is naked, raw, catalyst, creepy, crazy, cretinous…”crime rock”.
You gotta love a band with a manifesto, and manifestos are something that Iain F Svenonius has specialised in across 25 years of insurrectionary garage punk mayhem and gospel ye-ye testifying. Minimum Rock N Roll is Chain & The Gang’s fourth album and further cements the notion they’re the equal of all his other astonishing outfits – Nation Of Ulysses, The Make Up, Weird’s War and the rest. In his lyrics, as in his frequently hilarious and insightful writing, Svenonius makes it clear that he understands rock’n’roll better than anyone. Give him a switchblade riff, a sharp suit and an insurrectionary subject and he’ll give you a revolutionary pamphlet set to a trashy go-go beat. You can tie yourself up in knots trying to unpick his mangling of Situationist theory, revolutionary ardour and rock’n’roll sloganeering, trying to work out where ironic posturing meets rock primitivist sincerity, but you’d be wasting time that’d be far better spent getting on the good foot with a beer in one hand and a copy of The Society Of The Spectacle in the other.
In co-vocalist Katie Greer, Svenonious has found his perfect foil, her often jaded, bratty vocal style setting up their call and response routines perfectly. Musically, there’s no great departure from the Gang template, although some of the songs are perhaps a little more developed than usual. I’m A Choice has a gorgeous riff that calls to mind The Modern Lovers, there’s a raga feel to Crime Don’t Pay and Fairy Dust could their funkiest yet, 3 minutes of minimal groove. Let’s cut to the chase: Minimum Rock’N’Roll is 30 minutes of pure punk rock fun, 12 short and snappy missives from a band at the top of their game. You need some crime rock in your life."
"The latest missive from Ian Svenonius, the Gore Vidal of garage, and his ‘crime rock’ reprobates Chain & The Gang is guaranteed free of ‘unnecessary sounds, extraneous words, too many sentiments, frivolous notes and spare beats’. At least they don’t spare the funkiness though, with habitual doses of lean guitar swagger and prowling basslines. Instrumental ‘Fairy Dust’ is all bassline and doesn’t want for anything, except perhaps Svenonius’s breathless rhythm’n’blues rhetoric, dispensed elsewhere in call-and-response debate with his cool chick sidekick Katie Alice."
"As frontman of Nation Of Ulysses and The Make-Up, Ian Svenonius dedicated his creative life to an exploration of the soul brother archetype, colliding James Brown, DC punk and Marxist philosophy with wit and conviction. With Chain & The Gang, he's exploring "aural austerity", stripping his sound back to brass tacks. Those who adored The Make-Up may find the skeletal drum machine thunk of "Stuck In A Box" a little demo-quality. But Svenonius' charisma is unflagging, and his commitment to the theme can thrill, too: see "Devitalize", an anti-gentrification anthem that finds Svenonius and Katie Alice chanting "Peel the paint / Rust the rails / Close everything so nuttin's for sale!""