Chain and the Gang are the brainspawn of front man Ian Svenonius of Nation of Ulysses - the legendary 90's D.C. hardcore band with free-jazz interests that helped define the sound of iconic punk label Dischord - and The Make Up - a more quirky, off color, but no less politically subversive off shoot of Nation of Ulysses. Make Up were a post-hardcore band (one of the first?) and as such they dabbled in harder psychedelia, gospel, jangley garage, 50's bubblegum pop (of the French varietal Ye Ye) and other eclectic proclivities soon to be snatched up by indie rock minions to come. But always there was Svenonius anchoring the whole thing with that unmistakably cocky, brash voice, stomping and strutting around, talking about god knows what, acting like a cultural refugee, and spitting all manners of anti-capitalist fun.
Things have toned down for Svenonius considerably since the 90's (how lame is it that by comparison, 90's music looks far more politically engaged than now?). He's got a new project called Chain and the Gang which features backup from a virtual role call for K Records (the pac northwest indie elite that isn't Sub Pop) affiliates. The record, Down With Liberty...Up With Chains! glues to the sillier, ironic aspects of the Make Up, but playing a bit less into gospel funk and into other areas including fuzzy prison blues ("Trash Talk"), Chubby Checker party rock ("Room 19"), Bayou blues ("Unpronounceable Name"), and some primal Krautrock ("Cementary Map" and "Lookin for a cave girl"). Svenonius is still magnetically disaffected even while haunting more oblique political positions. The sparsity and looseness of the record is a perfect choice in that it allows Svenonius to dominate, which he'll do no matter what, but also leaves him out to dry, open to the elements, exposing him to be as scathingly virile as he is stylishly vapid (It's post-post motherfuckers!) But there is some wonderfully laid back, joyfully desiccative stuff here and this is the best return to form that I could imagine for one of the most confounding, fascinating front men in punk, rock, or anywhere.

Chain Gang Theme (I See Progress)
Cemetery Map
Trash Talk
Room 19
Unpronounceable Name

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