Chain and the Gang - Down with Liberty... Up with Chains! (2009)


An incestuous affair even for K Records, Chain and the Gang boast an indie all-star lineup with members of Old Time Relijun, Desolation Wilderness, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Finally Punk, the Curious Mystery, Hornet Leg, the Vibrarians, and K-Records' head honcho himself, Calvin Johnson. In all, 14 people back Nation of Ulysses/Make-Up vocalist Ian Svenonius, who effortlessly and haphazardly drizzles his words over the lo-fi collective's minimal slop. With an elitist hipster charisma, Svenonius sounds like a cross between Alan Vega and Jim Carroll (in other words, a curt but affable loud-spoken New Yorker type) as he lectures in loose rhymes over simple song structures. Guitar, drums, fuzz bass, organ, some sax, and percussion (including claps) push the girl group sha na nas and railroad work songs on Down with Liberty...Up with Chains! into art punk territory, that, in typical K fashion, was recorded in an always raw, basement recording style. A few songs miss the mark and sound like unrehearsed jams, but at the album's middle, things get soaring and peak with the highlights "What Is a Dollar?," "Interview with the Chain Gang," and Deathbed Confession" -- three thoughtful songs that poke jabs at "a society rotten with fascists," as Svenonius might say, while staying true to their lax, clownish roots.

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