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Chain and the Gang
Best of Crime Rock Brendan Telford , July 10th, 2017 11:11

I have always been a sucker for Ian Svenonius’s musical output - the warped proto-soul of The Make-Up and especially the visceral, satirical hardcore mastery of The Nation of Ulysses that kicked it all off some twenty-odd years ago. His latest permutation is as shady sleazeleader for garage lounge lurkers Chain and the Gang. Their five albums, including 2012’s Music’s Not For Everyone, have a loose and louche aesthetic, tracks rollicking along like a homunculus, lumbering and lurching in immaculate leather, velour and shades, espousing the godly virtues of all that is rock'n'roll. It’s ugly, lugubrious, sweat-salted, pheromone-tainted, gleefully nihilistic, and always inclusive – it wants everyone along for the ride. They pander to no one; they don’t need to. They have carved their own jagged niche of cult idolatry and are ready to add exponentially to their cabal of rabid followers.

And because they live in a world of their own creation – a fetid rock raconteur petri dish – it is fair to say that not many people know or care that Chain and the Gang are a thing. So here is The Best of Crime Rock, a compilation that steps out the mission statement of disorder and disarray that Svenonius and his acolytes live by, and goes some way to highlight the fevered agitation the band instils.

‘Devitalise’ opens the release and is a clarion call of where Chain & the Gang are now. It’s dark, roiling, acidic yet knowing – a rant against the 'evolution' of the 21st century, against an eternal mediocre wasteland. Nothing is sacred, but it is a call to arms - such fetid energy is actually a positive turn towards creativity and hope.

Each song thereafter is a re-recorded, hi-fidelity version of the 'hits' from the band’s five albums – truly taking on the best of the best idea that a compilation is supposed to uphold. There are treatises on the virtues of waste and refuse, as they stand for something used, appreciated, ALIVE (‘Certain Types Of Trash’, ‘I See Progress’). There are grungy wallows in the down and out shadows (‘Livin’ Rough’), the leveller and eradicator that is money (‘What Is A Dollar?’), the Runaways-meets-The Donnas vamped vitriol of ‘Mum’s The Word’. There are some new tracks here – ‘The Logic Of Night’ maintains a roguish noir saunter, the organ and simple drumbeat like a finger snap, almost cartoonish in its dark seduction; and the simpleminded plea to ‘Come Over’ - and they merely function to fortify the modus operandi here. All of them are delivered with raw, fevered abandon.

It’s important to note how important Anna Nasty is to the genetics of Chain and the Gang. The vocal counterpoint to Svenonius’ rasped sneer, her call-and-response at times emulates Suzi Quattro or Joan Jett, and heightens the band's call for wholesale anarchy and emancipation from the constraints of the shit that holds us all back. Primal urges reign supreme, most simplistically exemplified in ‘Free Will’. The album finishes with six-minute conspiracy tome ‘Deathbed Confession’, which is dialled back rather than cranked up in the re-recording, creating a sinuous paranoid fantasy that is sweat-encrusted and euphoric in its delivery.

The outlandish flamboyance, the snarls and sneers, the repetition and rebuffs of The Best of Crime Rock are ridiculous, except like most manic preacher frontmen - like John Spencer, David Yow or Mike Patton - Svenonius sells it all with conviction and a devilish twinkle in his eye. He means what he says, and also knows how absurd it all is. These 12 tracks serve as a bombastic backdrop for Svenonius’ treatises on living the life of an anti-capitalist svengali; they're a guerrilla garage rock manifesto imbued with fever, fervour and soul. It’s something I can happily live by.