Ian Svenonius is what he is, and if you know what that is, more than likely you’ll already know if you want this album or not. Chain & the Gang is his newest addition to a long line of revered bands (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Scene Creamers/ Weird War), this one sounding like a gospel band making political music for kids.
On Music’s Not For Everyone, their second album, he still sounds like a hobo preacher even while he’s toned down the preaching from their debut, Down With Liberty…Up With Chains!, with the able Gang following him wherever he wants to go, from Jonathan Richman doo wop pop (“Not Good Enough”) to raucous Motor City rave-up (“Detroit Music”) to a number of organ-led, laid back Booker T & the MGs soul grooves and jangly blues stomps.
The roomy, live production and delicate arrangements sound small, though, and struggle under the weight of the vocals, not to mention that this time the songs are sweeter, the music more precious, sometimes even—dare I say it—twee. Not that this is a bad thing, but it means that Svenonius has put out a record that could be called “cute,” something unthinkable just a few years ago. He’s at his best when sounding snotty and evil, but every cynic smiles sometimes.