[sic] Magazine

Chain & The Gang – The Best Of Crime Rock

They don’t make ‘em like Ian Svenonius no more. The notorious U.S. punk activist has led D.C. post-hardcore legends Nation Of Ulysses in his time, so too The Make Up and The Scene Creamers/Weird War, and his current vehicle of choice – Chain & The Gang – is no less fascinating despite operating in an entirely different space again, and a readily accessible one at that. According to the press release, The Best Of Crime Rock – a genre entirely unto Svenonius and co. – is not a best of in the traditional sense as “every Chain & The Gang album is the best of Chain & The Gang!” It’s a valid point and yet, musically, Crime Rock literally is the best Chain & The Gang album to date. Comprising just two new tracks with the rest culled from the band’s past three albums, it’s also a career reboot for their In The Red debut.

Cleaning up several of the older cuts in terms of fidelity too – sometimes quite startlingly – Crime Rock is as sassy, clever and weirdly funny as ever. Its political barbs sting throughout too, true punk-rock ‘n’ roll as seen through the eyes of a tongue-in-cheek savant who’s leading a self-styled “anti-liberty” revolution. This translates on record into a series of largely snappy, satirical confrontations handled with extreme class. Capitalism and consumerism are unsurprisingly put to the sword, so too America’s over-the-top freedom rights, love of conspiracy and its misplaced sense of self-importance. The temptation with such a manifesto might have been to attack it all noisily, yet Crime Rock is dealt with almost delicately in its instrumentation, ideas often taken into knowingly absurd extremes lyrically all the same.

Built minimally on guitar, drums and meaty bass rhythms, this is garage-rock treated to flirtations with the blues, psychobilly-punk and surf. The hooks are plentiful and Svenonius’s playful vocal back-and-forths with Anna Nasty are a delight. Crime Rock is wry and it’s arch, new track “The Logic Of Night” a smoky organ-driven title sequence for some cartoon detective series, all cloak-and-dagger with an insidious little groove, while striking LP closer “Deathbed Confession”, originally from the Down With Liberty … Up With Chains! album, is a militaristic bout of piano playing as satisfying as it is ridiculous. “We’re just different, the way we see the world” Svenonius croons on “I See Progress” from the same album and it’s true. He’s always offered a unique perspective on life and Crime Rock is a neat riposte to identikit and po-faced rockers the world over. Be thankful he’s not really serious about leading the revolution all the same.

~Best Of Crime Rock is released June 16th 2017 via In The Red.~