Ian Svenonius, in a happy place with Chain and the Gang

April 13, 2012

Disruption and agitation have always been key elements in Ian Svenonius’s music, so it was a little odd to watch Chain and the Gang performing on the Black Cat Backstage on Thursday night. Svenonius just looked so . . . content.

The Gang is the fourth — following Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up and Weird War — in the District native’s line of inventive ensembles. Sharing lead vocal duties with Katie Alice Greer, Svenonius was authoritative, assured and, um, satisfied?

Not that he and Greer weren’t spastic and jerky in their stage machinations. They lurched and shimmied through an hour-long set that mixed staples such as “Detroit Music,” “Why Not?” and “For Practical Purposes (I Love You)” with songs that will presumably appear on the band’s upcoming third album, “In Cool Blood,” recorded in Olympia, Wash., in December.

Yet there was an air of satisfaction and triumph throughout, suggesting that Svenonius has finally dialed in the musical elements for optimum delivery of his messages. A tight backing trio, led by guitarist Brett Lyman, laid down spiky soul-funk-punk that fit the intertwining vocal lines like a vintage suit from Another Man’s Treasure.

In fact, Chain and the Gang sounded so sleek, powerful and confident (they are in the midst of a 22-date U.S. tour), that it is fairly obvious what Svenonius will do next: Break up the group and start a new one.

Foster is a freelance writer.

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