Chain And The Gang  : Manchester : live review
Chain And The Gang : Photo by John Robb

Chain And The Gang

Manchester Kraak Gallery

November 26th 2012

Live Review


It’s not often you go to a gig where you smile all the way through and your brain is racing with ideas and debates sparked by the band’s questioning intelligence, machine gun AK 47 aesthetic and brilliant music.


But then it’s not often you go and see Chain And The Gang and we are getting a double date with the band who are making their second trip to Manchester in six months. We are not the slightest bit bored, I just wish they would stay on the stage for ever. They were wonderful when they played at the Deaf Institute in Manchester in May which was one of the gigs of the year. Returning tonight they have a whole new line up backing up the poster boy of the underground, Ian Svenonius, who has upped the ante with his suit sharper, his stream of consciousness smarter and his bouffant more perfect.


The new line up is leaner and meaner and a lot of the sound has been stripped out leaving plenty of space for the brilliant stream of conscious lyrics that tread a fierce and fine line between being funny and cutting edge brilliant. Ian is one of those thinkers, growing out of punk and hardcore he is questioning everything and believing nothing. His songs could be, on the surface, about how you don’t see certain types of trash, or should that be garbage he wonders, in the modern world but there are also saying something else. There is one really long song discussing the dollar, how to get it, what the hell it is and what it means- it really shouldn’t work but sounds genius in the hands of the brimming with smarts singer who makes his liberation theory and gospel yeh yeh both smart and sexy.


But then Ian Svenonius has form. He was part of the Washington DC hardcore scene. His band, Nation Of Ulysses, took this energy and made something else out of it adding a Jazz aesthetic and a gospel blues fervor to their short sharp shocks. They also looked amazing in perfect suits and sculpted hair. They could have been massive but seemed content with fiery guerrilla gigs laying out the template for so many bands from the Hives to The Refused to every band you now see uncomfortably squeezed into a suit- many of those bands look like they have been forced to wear suits to go to work but NOU looked like the best dressed revolutionaries in town and don’t forget that the best dressed revolutionaries always had a good tailor.


With their aesthetic everywhere the band have become invisible but when he returned as the Make Up dressed in their canary suits there was a buzz and the band were big cult faves. That kind of success seemed too boring for the firebrand mind of the singer who was soon fronting smaller bands, worrying about music culture, pop philosophy and trying to get all those ideas out.


His current band Chain And The Gang started as another fantastic concept, their early shows saw them dressed in prison, since then they have released three albums, the first and third, the cleverly titles In Cool Blood, are fantastic whilst their return to Manchester sees them slowly morphing into something else.


The prison gear has now gone but Ian Svenonius still look sharp and angular in a silver suit throwing those shapes like a psychotic James Brown high on ideas. He now has a perfect foil with the effortlessly cool Katie Alice Greer, who matches Ian with the sassy dancing, perfectly cool hair shaking and yelping vocals. The pair of them are like a modern day Johnny Thunders and Patti Pallidan high on the smarts instead of the chemicals. Their call and response sections are the perfect moments in the set along with their non stop dancing. The rest of the band keep it lean and mean like any band that has been on the road for five weeks and their real strength is what they don’t play and the power of stripping it down as they deal out their music that is part go go, part surf, part soul, part DIY lo fi but never loses its groove.


Chain And The Gang are on fire. So few groups can touch you in every way possible- mentally, physically and joyfully…they are so good that I implore you to check them out now.


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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