When I was living just outside of Fresno in 1987, the lowered Nissan and Toyota minitruck reigned supreme, as did nylon Starter jackets worn in 103-degree heat, lo-top Filas, permed mullets (sported by males and females of every race), and, most importantly, the ass-shaking car stereo system with sub-woofers that had enough low end to make you lose control of your bowels quicker than you could grab the handle of your Rockford Fosgate pull-out tape deck. With these sound systems came the accompanying soundtracks: 2 Live Crew's 2 Live Is What We Are, Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill, and even L'Trimm's Grab It!, for godsakes! This was a pivotal moment in history because it polarized the gap between the people who understood and enjoyed these booty-bass and party-rap albums for what they were (escapist fun, reveling in the absurdities of contemporary sex and consumer culture) and the people who actually embraced them literally and took these ideals on as a lifestyle.

San Francisco's Gold Chains (AKA Topher LaFata) owes as much to the aforementioned acts as he does to present day tongue-in-cheek electro rump-shakers such as Chilly Gonzales, Kid 606, Peaches, and Disco D, and he's found that the quickest way to make social commentary through music is to present it in such an ambiguous pop fashion that you're left to your own intellectual devices, or lack thereof, to interpret the music however you will. Go have a drug-soaked orgy on the dance floor, or go home and sob while you write your manifesto--neither matters much to him. Whereas the excess expressed in those albums of the 1980s reflected optimism, Gold Chains 2002's album, Straight From Your Radio, and 2003's Young Miss America reflect the cynicism of instant-gratification culture in its twilight years. Tracks like "I Treat Your Coochie Like a Maze," "Mountains of Coke," "Much Currency Flows," and "Code Red" are hilarious in that Chains' deadpan, hoarse-throated dancehall rap delivery--backed by polished IDM, hiphop, and electro beats--bounces back and forth between moronic goofiness and enough Top 40 savvy to give 50 Cent a run for his own currency.

As intriguing as some of Gold Chains' tracks are, though, they probably won't be sitting in rotation in my CD book forever--unlike that old Beastie Boys album--and I recommend the live experience as probably your best bet for catching the performer in his moment. Onstage, he is flanked by two scantily clad women who assist him in his laptop-MC spectacle, one that's fueled both by hiphop's bling-bling confidence and punk rock's curt bitterness. So, like, I'll be by to pick you up at about 9 pm in the white B2000 with tinted windows and pink ground FX. NICOLAE WHITE

Gold Chains w/Panther and Module vs. Capitalist Punishment vs. Scratch Master Joe, Tues July 8 at Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm-2 am, 21+, $8.

nicolae@thestranger.com

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