Best of Crime Rock - Chain and the Gang (In The Red Records)
If de-constructed blues-garage rock pared back to its most basic elements is what you crave, here’s the album. “Best of Crime Rock” is all that and a bit more and one of the sneakiest records to seep out in 2017.
Stealthy, not because it’s mostly re-recorded versions of songs the band has committed to tape before, but for the way the music creeps up and embeds itself in your ears. There’s a dash of unhinged blues, a slice of funk and some pop in Chain and the Gang’s cooler-than-thou schtick that sets the band apart from almost any other.
Coming out of Washington D.C., they’re led by Ian Svenonius who’s something of a local legend in those parts, hosting a radio talk show for a time and fronting Dischord Records punks Nation of Ulysses in the late ‘80s. He shares droll, deadpan vocals with bassist Anna Nasty and more often than not the songs are highly-strung, call-and-response exchanges between the pair.
Minimalist, occasionally fuzzy guitar, sparse bass-lines and dinky organ sounds are all nailed to the floor by Mark Cisneros and his economical drumming.
Guitarist Francy Z. Graham’s pointed fuzz tone is at its most prominent in “Mum’s The Word” and “Devitalize”, the former an edgy rocker, thew latter a metronomic assault. “Certain Kinds of Trash” is an absurdist dissertation on garbage set to a primal Stooge keyboard line and skulking guitar.
“The Logic of Night” is a sort of R-rated Nancy-and-Lee duet about things people do in the dark, accompanied by tremulous keyboards and more of Francy’s fuzz. “What is a Dollar” would give Niagara Detroit a run for her money in the drollness stakes, while “Come Over” veers into surf pop territory.
“Living Rough” sounds more like a band living large ion the bones of rock and roll that a tale of being down-and-out. All that unhealthy D.C. paranoia finds an outlet in “Deathbed Confession”, a trippy monologue about submarine crewmen being tossed overboard and a man hanging from a helicopter by his feet.
Chain and the Gang did a Golden Plains festival gig and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em side show tour of Australia in March that had punters running off at the mouth with their praises. Small fools, those of us who missed them.