Chain & the Gang

Experimental Music

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Ian Svenonius is a smart guy with an abundance of ideas, and each of his many bands seems to have been built around a particular musical and thematic concept. In the case of Chain & the Gang, the core idea was that in a supposedly "free" society where so much has gone wrong, it was the folks in chains who were the real heroes, and the musical corollary was less is more, as his bandmates played music inspired by R&B and garage rock that was deliberately stripped to the frame. However, for his sixth album under the Chain & the Gang rubric, Svenonius has chosen to play a bit loose with his self-imposed guidelines, and it's worked out well for him. Arriving in 2017, Experimental Music was recorded live in the studio with a relatively expansive six-piece lineup of C&TG, including Fred Thomas and Amber Fellows of Saturday Looks Good to Me, Danny Kroha of the Gories and Danny & the Darleans, and Shelley Salant of Tyvek. With more instrumental firepower at the ready, Experimental Music sounds bigger and more satisfying than many of Chain & the Gang's previous efforts, with the musicians landing a deeper and more playful groove behind Svenonius' vocals, and the multiple guitars upping the rock quotient. And while Svenonius is still an uber-clever phrasemaker on tracks like "I Hate Winners," "Rome," and "If I Was an Animal," the title tune finds him celebrating the rebellious joy of making music on one's own terms, and his storytelling on "Don't Scare the Ghost Away" finds him stretching his muscles as a lyricist. Best of all, the lively backgrounds bring out his best instincts as a frontman, with Svenonius sounding especially engaged on these sessions. Experimental Music may not be Chain & the Gang's best album, but it's certainly the most purely enjoyable to date, and it makes the case that sometimes change is just the thing upstart artists need to work at their best.

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