Once again, Ian Svenonius is here to tell us everything we know is wrong on the fourth album from Chain & the Gang -- he doesn't want to make rock & roll bigger and tougher, he wants it to get leaner and more slippery, and that's just what he and his comrades do on Minimum Rock N Roll, with a set of stripped-back, soulful rock & roll that's full of smarts and subversion. Svenonius doesn't want to revitalize the city, he wants to devitalize the gentrifiers; he upends anti-feminist jargon while romancing his lady by telling her he's a choice, not a child; he rejects consumer culture by reminding us everything truly worth getting is already gone; and reveals that love is his only crime before putting the title concept to work in a song so sparse that it pretty much couldn't exist if any single element were removed. As with most of Svenonius' work, Minimum Rock N Roll is about concept as much as execution, but the thinking behind it is clever, and he knows how to take classic rock and R&B tropes and bend them just enough that they take on new and unexpected shapes. Svenonius is also a great frontman, investing the songs with both drama and wit that doesn't undercut the genuine thought behind the lyrics. And the band is scrappy and effective, with the buzzy report of Brett Lyman's guitar meshing nicely with Chris Sutton's bass and Fiona Campbell's drumming, and Katie Alice Greer's vocal interjections suggest some downtown variation on vintage R&B, and their mutant soul vibe feels like it comes from a place of genuine sincerity, not always the case with folks following this path. Minimum Rock N Roll is spare but solid, and offers some real rock & roll kicks along with a dash of radical food for thought, something in short supply on the indie scene in this day and age.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming