Chain and The Gang

Down With Liberty . . . Up With Chains! [KLP203]

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Everywhere that liberty goes, it leaves a path of destruction. Fast food, bad architecture, materialism, rampant greed, environmental destruction, imperial conquest, class struggle; these phenomena, when combined, seem to be synonymous with "Liberty." So just as it's called "liberty" when war and greed stalk the land, Ian Svenonius (Make Up, Nation of Ulysses and Weird War) calls his band Chain & the Gang. Like a true chain gang, they're on the road to confront and defy any freedom-lovers that come across their path. They shuffle, manacled, across railway yards, and through graveyards; they're on the side of the road, picking up the garbage as they walk, as people drive by, yelling at them. All they can do is become a chorus of metal meeting metal, hands hitting hands and a collective voice louder than one.

The songs they have created on Down With Liberty … Up With Chains [KLP203] are sing-alongs; a call and response in the tradition of gospel tunes, work favorites and the girl groups and vocal aggregates that once dotted the corners of the Mid-Atlantic United States. It sounds as natural as a freak hail storm or the roar of a lion on the veldt. The album is cunningly constructed – like a series of tone poems or work songs; the remnants of time served, a universal debt paid to society. It started with one lifer (Svenonius) and grew to include a gang of small time bandits with Calvin Johnson, Brett Lyman (Bad Thoughts), Sarah Pedal, Faustine Hudson (The Curious Mystery), Brian Weber (Dub Narcotic Sound System), Veronica Ortuño (Finally Punk), Nicolaas Zwart (Desolation Wilderness), Karl Blau, Chris Sutton (Hornet Leg), Sixx (The Vibrarians), Arrington de Dionyso, Aaron Hartman and Benjamin Hartman (Old Time Relijun). 

How do they describe their sound? Something they just found. They dug it up from the ground. Essential to that soil: guitar, drums, organ, saxophone and chants; paying off our collective debt to the universe. There are songs with a driving locomotive engine ("Reparations," "Interview with the Chain Gang"), a full-on choir of the disenfranchised ("Cemetery Map," "Deathbed Confession," Trash Talk") and disentangled, soul-influenced invitations to a celebration ("Room 19" and "Unpronounceable Name").Down With Liberty … Up With Chains is simple and profound, the way a pebble on the beach is. There are no song cycles, sample beats, sequencers or baby pictures of the artist as a tot. 

"Ian Svenonius is an inadvertent pioneer. His career has been a studied attempt to advance the history of punk rock, using influences as tools to build with rather than styles to flaunt and discard." - The Wire 

The digital version of this album is available from Bandcamp.

  1. Chain Gang Theme (I See Progress)
  2. Cemetery Map
  3. Trash Talk
  4. Reparations
  5. What is a Dollar?
  6. Interview with the Chain Gang
  7. Deathbed Confession
  8. Room 19
  9. (Lookin' For a) Cave Girl
  10. Unpronounceable Name