April 22, 2024

The Dream Syndicate – “How Did I Find Myself Here?”          Letting the days go by with The Dream Syndicate


8 September 2017

There is something special about chiming guitars – two guitars weaving and occasional riding rough over each other. There’s plenty of that here and the sound is classic American left-field rock filtered through an eighties lens. Artful feedback accompanies insistent drums and songs frequently stretch into air guitar territory, jamming and riffing on in a way that encourages head shaking with a “rock face”. Bass, when upfront, like in 80 West, is thick and elastic.

The band might well ask themselves “How Did I Find Myself Here?”  This is their first album in thirty years. Formed by Steve Wynn in 1981, the band played US-wide support slots with War-era U2 and REM – which gives you a clue to the sound. Not that they sound like either band but the Eighties figure in the sonic palette, or at least the Eighties as in the new Paisley Underground – that rash of psychedelic guitar bands that trod the path of obscurity. Split by 1988 and reformed through one of those festival dreams in 2012, this line up is Wynn, original drummer, Dennis Duck, plus newbies (if you count Mark Walton, who didn’t join till the third album as new…). Good newbies, they are, making a solidly bassed and extravagantly guitared confection.

I have a lucky ability to filter out any awkward genre-bound elements if it gets me to the meat of a sound. Here, there is a definite dated element to the songs and sound but I cheerfully indulge it so I can get more of those duelling guitars and big in-your-face guitar jams. It’s like an LA version of Echo And The Bunnymen, pumped up on adrenalin and steroids.

Things get frantic on tracks like The Circle, carrying a sense of eighties alienation alongside hammering riffs and needling guitar, breaking into a big solo, full of whammy bar and effects pedals. On the title track, all eleven minutes of it, horizons stretch, the band phases in and out of a jamming fugue state and things are very tasty. Similarly on the following track, the closing Kendra’s Dream, they have a good six minutes to establish the chorus and take the riff pattern out for a walk.

The band definitely hark back to the decade that birthed them but have a classic rock dynamic and foot-on-the-monitor momentum that marks them out as an excellent live band and have an album well worth your time.

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