chain and the gang ~ in cool blood
I absolutely loved Chain and the Gang’s debut Down With Liberty… Up with Chains. It was a quirky, retro, time-warp, that blended perky punk rock and prison blues perfectly. Their second album, Music’s Not for Everyone, was indeed not for everyone. While still born of the same ilk, the album was a strong departure and on the whole a little inconsistent. Songs like Detroit Music, and (I’ve Got) Privilege felt right out of the Down with Liberty playbook, most of it seemed like B-sides. The (relative) disappointment of the album, kept my excitement for their third, In Cool Blood, tepid. Last week I heard a preview and the first thought that came to mind was, Chain and the Gang is back.
I’m not a believer that every album a band puts out should sound alike, I believe just the opposite. I want to hear a band mature and grow into new sounds, but when that happens at the expense of the bands heart, it’s jarring. This is what happened on Music’s Not for Everyone. I actually liked the album, it’s piano laden soulful rhythms and sing along lyrics were catchy. The problem was that the heavy uber-pretentious punk flavor of Down with Liberty was almost nowhere to be found. What I had been expecting from their second effort I now understand was In Cool Blood. It becomes the perfect middle ground between their fist and second albums.
From the echoey whale of Ian Svenonius and the jamming punk baseline of the albums first song, Hunting for Love all the way to the quick rubber band of the finale In Cool Blood, the album hits you hard and doesn’t stop or slow down once. My heart leapt out of my chest five seconds in, this is exactly what I had been hoping for. Unlike Down with Liberty… there are no ballads or dirges, and as with Music’s Not for Everyone, the pace is quick, almost like a punk party album from 1988. In Cool Blood, is far more Rock and Roll, but keeps the sing-along toe tapping appeal.
CHAIN figure head Ian Svenonius is never afraid to lace his songs with anti-authoritarian and Marxist rhetoric. It’s hipster pretension all the way and never denies being so. His far left politics permeate his physical being and have even been manifested in a collection of his essays titled, The Psychic Soviet. In Cool Blood, is less openly political in nature and has a far more playful attitude.
There’s a new voice in CHAIN, Katie Alice Greer who blends perfectly in a kind of gray and black duality of Svenonius. Subsequently the album is far more sexually charged than anything from the past, Heavy Breathing a prime example. The slowest and most subdued cut, exploding with sexuality, uncharted territory for the band.
In Cool Blood delivers on the promise of Down with Liberty, underground punk, rock and roll, in a post punk modern world. Few bands are doing what Chain and the Gang are doing, and even fewer can manage to establish a clap-your-hands, stomp-your-feet beat as consistently as they do. Chain and the Gang is back.
The album is available in though k-records in all the usual formats.