LIVE REVIEW: Chain & The Gang 17/05/2011

19 05 2011

The Deaf Institute, Manchester

Review by Paul Robinson

I was reading an interview with Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream in Uncut a while back and in it he name-checked Chain &The Gang’s first album ‘Down With Liberty.. Up With Chains’. He went on to add that it was the only new band he was into at the time, but the old soul and sixties garage sound was really what he liked about it. That, and the fact that Chain & The Gang is the new band fronted by Ian Svenonius (he of The Make Up and Nation Of Ulysses) was enough for me to put my cash on the counter at my local record store.

Apparently ‘concerned that the spread of liberty has been detrimental to the world’- citing ‘fast food, bad architecture, militarism, rampant greed, environmental destruction, imperial conquest and class struggle’ as evidence – Svenonius says his band name is a plea for bondage, a catch-all summation for his new tongue in-cheek anti-freedom movement.

Tonight Svenonius, aka Chain, resplendent in an orange suit is joined by the Gang, suitably attired in prison stripes and including James Canty of Nation Of Ulysses and The Make Up, on guitar and keyboards.  There’s lots of ad-libbing from Chain and the rest of the band which sits well with the humour in the spoken/sung lyrics and the call and response female backing vocals and righteous keys, thrumming bass and garage guitar licks.

The first song tonight is the opener from Down With Liberty, ‘Chain Gang Theme’, it’s a groovy catchy number and Svenonius has already left the stage halfway through and is bopping with the crowd down the front.

Chain has so many great one liners and casual observations, the glitter ball that dominates the room, and the belief that Manchester has the best singing tenors of any audience(!), he could probably do stand-up comedy as well as his online interview show, Soft Focus.

‘Trash Talk’ is a sarcastic commentary on gossip mongers, backbiters and cheap media soundbites, delivered with a strutting beat and fuzzed guitar.

Each track is delivered with some snappy dance moves from Chain, and the basis of many of the songs is tongue in cheek political and cultural sloganeering. The band are well rehearsed and are comfortable in each other’s presence, quickly locking into a groove as the set continues. Considering they weren’t necessarily involved in the recording of either album, it doesn’t show.

The encore is ‘Deathbed Confession’ a mythical confessional story that takes in just about every conspiracy theory you can think of, JFK, rogue U-Boat submariners, the fake moon landings, Hitler’s preserved and pickled brain, The Bay of Pigs and electric shock therapy.

The new album is called ‘Music Is Not For Everyone. The title is the ultimate irony because as I return to my car and tear open the new cd to give it a blast on the way home, there’s no CD in it. Maybe music’s just not for me? Hell no, several minutes later, handshakes and apologies all round, I’ve grabbed a second copy from Svenonius and Co., and it fills the car as I head home. Svenonius is a unique character in rock n roll and if you like the Make Up and Nation Of Ulysses, you’ll love this.

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