chainandthegang

For my money, the defining punk record of the nineties wasn’t Refused’s ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’, nor anything by Fugazi or out of the riot grrl scene; it was The Nation of Ulysses’ ‘Plays Pretty for Baby’, an utterly furious fifty minutes that packed diverse instrumental choices, clever thematic approaches and – most crucially – palpable anger onto one disc. It’s with some interest, then, that I’ve followed the career of the Nation’s frontman, Ian Svenonius.

Chain and the Gang sees him in territory that, sonically at least, is considerably more mellow; sure, the guitars on opener ‘Devitalize’ both screech and crunch in aggressive fashion, but much of the rest of ‘Minimum Rock n Roll’ has its roots in garage. ‘Got to Have It Every Day’ is almost bluesy, a strutting riff paired with a largely conversational turn from Svenonius, whilst ‘Stuck in a Box’ and ‘Fairy Dust’ are groove-driven, hurried along by wandering basslines. Vocal contributions from Katie Alice on a number of tracks sometimes work well (the cocksure ‘Crime Don’t Pay’) and sometimes don’t (a distorted performance on the turgid ‘Curtain Pull’).

Lyrically, most of the boxes you’d expect are ticked – from ruminations on global surveillance to decrying posers. Such a back-to-basics rock approach seems a strange vehicle for Svenonius’ world views – indeed, ‘Minimalist Rock n Roll’ might have been a better title – but he wears it surprisingly well; there’s plenty of energy and anger here, even if one’s more obvious than the other.

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