Review By DAN MACINTOSH
Pop-punk is not punk, nor is everything labeled rock, truly Rock ‘N’ Roll. The verifiable good stuff contains a near-lethal dose of danger. And, in an exception to the general rule, abrasiveness here is actually a good thing.
The Dream Syndicate broke out in the early ’80s like a horror move realistic enough to be non-fiction, with harrowing tracks like “Halloween.” It’s been about 30 years since The Dream Syndicate last made its noisy recorded presence felt, and How Did I Find Myself Here? Is a welcome return.
Another famed Los Angeles band, Fear, once observed how New York’s all right, if you like saxophones. Well, The Dream Syndicate’s more than just all right, if you dearly love electric guitars. Particularly, howling, feedbacking, loud guitars. Jason Victor wrestles nearly every note out of his guitar during the “Out of My Head,” for a track that stands up well next to vintage Dream Syndicate music.
The Dream Syndicate Mixes it Up
The album’s title track, in contrast, swings like jazz. Miles Davis would have fit right in playing trumpet on it, in much the same way he did for Bitches Brew. Producer Chris Cacavas provides keyboard coloring that helps distinguish this track from the rest of the album.
Steve Wynn sings most of The Dream Syndicate vocals, playing the Lou Reed role in this many times The Velvet Underground throwback act. One exception is “Kendra’s Dream,” which former bassist Kendra Smith sings and helped write, adding a mysterious, Nico-like vibe.
Wynn is so more than a cacophonic ringmaster, though. He’s also a skilled lyricist, with a novelist’s ear for dramatic detail. Bassist Mark Walton kicks off “80 West” like a Smithereens’ lament, while Wynn relays a troubling road story song. Something criminal happened on 80 West, which sent our protagonist out on the road and on the run. It makes listeners feel like an unwilling hitchhiker, along for this wild ride.
Much like jazz, the kind of Rock ‘N’ Roll The Dream Syndicate creates will never become extinct. So, just as long as people revel in leaving a club with their ears ringing, bands like The Dream Syndicate will provide their soundtrack. Find your way here, just as soon as possible.