The Chain Gang of 1974

Wayward Fire

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On his group the Chain Gang of 1974's debut full-length CD, Wayward Fire, bandleader Kamtin Mohager continues his love affair with British synthesized dance-pop of the mid-'80s. It would be an interesting, if slightly sneaky trick to place a couple of songs from the album in the mix on a radio station devoted to the music of the '80s. Listeners would recognize that the songs fit the format, but as they heard, say, "Devil Is a Lady," they might find themselves at first thinking it was some obscure track by the Human League, albeit with a vocal sounding a bit like Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears. "Heartbreakin' Scream" might make them search their memories for which New Order B-side it might be, even if the Cure's Robert Smith seemed to be singing. This is to say that Mohager uses his favorite musical style in the same way that, for instance, a young country performer adopts the traditional sound of steel guitar and fiddles or an emerging jazz musician evokes the sound of '50s post-bop. Nobody objects in those cases. So, when Mohager comes up with steady, prominent dance beats, adds thick, repetitive synthesizer patterns and guitar riffs, and sings over it all in a throaty, disembodied low tenor, why should that be a problem? Pop music styles change faster than they wear out, and Mohager convincingly makes the case that there is more to say in the music of the ‘80s, even if fashion has banished it to its own radio formats and nostalgia tours.

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