Dream Syndicate

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The Days Of Wine And Roses, 8.5/10
Medicine Show, 7.5/10
Out Of The Grey, 7/10
Ghost Stories, 6.5/10

The Dream Syndicate, formed by guitarists Steve Wynn and Karl Precoda and bassist Kendra Smith, acted as the natural bridge between the Television (and the new wave in general) and the new generation of psychedelic rockers. Their first album, Days Of Wine And Roses (1982), conveyed, more than anything else, the synthesis of Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground that had been the hidden theme of the new wave. Echoes of the Rolling Stones, the Stooges and the Doors increased the hellish atmospheres of Wynn's confessional trips. While Wynn was lost in his existential panic, Precoda and Smith lifted the music to a majestic level. When Smith left, the "acid" quotient dropped, and the band opted for the quieter jamming of Medicine Show (1984), a presage of the new sound of Out Of The Grey (1986), reminiscent of Neil Young's neurotic country-rock; but Wynn was still the only songwriter capable of making his lyrics bleed. Ghost Stories (1988) closed the semicircle by almost embracing R.E.M.'s folk-rock. The combination of abrasive guitars, dramatic tension and crude realism coined a language that would inspire countless bands of the 1980s.

(Translated from my old Italian text by DommeDamian)


The Dream Syndicate were one of the new wave groups that best expressed that synthesis between Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground which was somewhat the fundamental theme of that entire movement.

When punk-rock and new wave exploded, Steve Wynn, Russ Tolman, Kendra Smith and Scott Miller were students at UC Davis, halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. Miller would stick around with Game TheoryTolman would form True West.

Guitarist Steve Wynn and bassist Kendra Smith, who moved to Los Angeles, met the other guitarist Karl Precoda, alongside Dennis Duck on drums, and formed Dream Syndicate in 1982. The sound of this group belonged to the psychedelic revival of those years but differed from it because it stripped away all the stereotypes of folk-rock and garage-punk and instead fished heavily in the "high" tradition of that ambiguous rock, subtly reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, but finding explicit influences in the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and the Doors.

Their debut album, The Days of Wine And Roses (Ruby, 1982), which incorporated three tracks from their previous EP Tell Me When It's Over (1982), caused a sensation for its raw realism and abrasive harmonies, coining a genre which would have inspired countless complexes of the 80s.
The dramatic tension of the songs and the manic and introverted lyrics (telling stories of alienation, extreme depravity and terror), the intoxicated singing and dual guitar work (Wynn's melodic and nervous and Precoda's feedback) create an oblique acid rock. Steve Wynn's gloomy confessional register, handing down the nightmares of Dylan and Reed, represents a lugubrious commentary on the new generational crisis.
From the melodic ballad Tell Me When It's Over , wrapped in harsh and hypnotic jingle jangle riffs, to the epic and martial continuous distortion of That's What You Always Say; from Too Little Too Late, a Nico-like fatalistic swoon, to the soft and disjointed crescendo of When You Smile; from the frenzied rockíníroll of Then She Remembers to Until Lately, blues/beat a la Manfred Mann or Them, the Dream Syndicate reveal in shocking terms the existential panic of the post-hardcore generation, reaching the peak of their pathos in the solemn and blackened raga a la Velvet Underground Halloween, with monumental feedback from Precoda. In a word, it's hyper-realism, again ominously psychotic in the pressing hoedown/punkabilly all in one breath of Days of Wine And Roses.

Without the bassist anymore and with a Precoda disarmed of her feedback, but more than ever unleashed in fiery solos, the sophomore Medicine Show (A&M, 1984), is much more relaxed, despite a long and feverish jam/swoon entitled John Coltrane Stereo Blues. The repertoire assimilates Springsteen-esque street melodrama (Merrittville), visceral Doors-esque roadhouse (Armed With An Empty Gun) and erotic country/blues ballads (Still Holding On To You) and social (Medicine Show).

Out of The Gray (Big Time, 1986) veers towards the "acid" country-rock of Neil Young, with Paul Cutler in place of Precoda and an infinitely more modern, danceable and radio sound (Now I Ride Alone Forest For The Trees , the title track, Slide Away ). Wynn had taken over and preferred the traditional song format (complete with story and atmosphere) to the free-form eruptions of Precoda and Smith.

Completing an evolution (or "involution") initiated by Medicine Show, the fourth album Ghost Stories (Enigma, 1988) heralded the advent of a noiseless, distraction-free rock song, classically anchored in melodiousness. Wynn's new direction fits into the vein inaugurated by Neil Young with his violent and electric folk ballads. Wynn shapes them as angry young anthems like The Side I'll Never Show and martial dramas like Loving The Sinner, Hating The Sin (one of his masterpieces). Though the record also features the vaudeville novelty My Old Haunts , a forlorn Cohen-esque lullaby like Someplace Better Than This , and the roadhouse blues Weathered And Torn, the new genre is now clearly defined, and has none of the psychedelic, cryptic vertigo of its origins (which perhaps belonged more to Kendra Smith than to Steve).

Wynn expresses a grim and pessimistic vision of the human condition through a film-noir depressed fatalism; But the moral of the negative sagas of him is always in the hope of the possible redemption. In this sense, his music is cathartic, noble even in moments of maximum affliction, unlike that of Young, who does not allow revenge, and of Reed, who enjoys martyrdom. This does not mean that redemption (that is, the solemn climaxes of many of his refrains) must be obtained by passing through trials of intense pain (rendered by the tremendous rains of distortions). Wynn has been one of the few, with Richard Hell, who knows how to make the verses of his songs bleed.

Steve Wynn then launched a prolific solo career.

I Dream Syndicate furono uno dei gruppi della new wave che meglio espresso quella sintesi fra Bob Dylan e i Velvet Underground che fu un po' il tema fondamentale dell'intero movimento.

Quando esplosero il punk-rock e la new wave, Steve Wynn, Russ Tolman, Kendra Smith e Scott Miller erano studenti alla UC Davis, a meta` strada fra San Francisco e Sacramento. Miller sarebbe rimasto in zona con i Game Theory. Tolman avrebbe formato i True West.

Il chitarrista Steve Wynn e la bassista Kendra Smith, trasferitisi a Los Angeles, conobbero l'altro chitarrista Karl Precoda e formarono nel 1982 i Dream Syndicate. Il sound di questo gruppo apparteneva al revival psichedelico di quegli anni ma se ne differenziava perche' si teneva alla larga dagli stereotipi del folk-rock e del garage-punk e pescava invece a piene mani nella tradizione "alta" di quel rock ambiguo che lambisce i Rolling Stones ma che trova espliciti referenti soprattutto nei Velvet Underground, negli Stooges, nei Doors.

Il loro album di debutto, The Days Of Wine And Roses (Ruby, 1982), che incorporava tre brani dal precedente EP Tell Me When It's Over (1982), fece epoca e sensazione per il crudo realismo e le armonie abrasive, coniando un linguaggio a cui si sarebbero ispirati innumerevoli complessi degli anni '80.
La tensione drammatica dei pezzi e le liriche maniacali e introverse (che raccontano storie estreme di alienazione, depravazione e terrore), il canto intossicato di Wynn e il lavoro duale di chitarre (quella melodica di e nervosa di Wynn e il feedback di Precoda) creano un obliquo acid-rock. Il cupo registro confessionale di Wynn, tramandando gli incubi di Dylan e di Reed, rappresenta un lugubre commentario alla nuova crisi generazionale.
Dalla ballata melodica Tell Me When It's Over, avvolta in aspri e ipnotici riff da jingle jangle, all'epica e marziale distorsione continuata di That's What You Always Say, da Too Little Too Late, deliquio fatalista alla Nico, al crescendo morbido e sconnesso di When You Smile, dal rock and roll concitato di Then She Remembers a Until Lately, blues/beat alla Manfred Mann o Them, i Dream Syndicate rivelano in termini sconvolgenti il panico esistenziale della generazione post-hardcore, toccando il vertice del loro pathos nel solenne e lancinante raga alla Velvet Underground Halloween, con un monumentale feedback di Precoda. In una parola e` di nuovo iper-realismo, sinistramente psicotico nell'incalzante hoedown/punkabilly tutto d'un fiato di Days Of Wine And Roses.

Senza piu` la bassista e con un Precoda disarmato dei suoi feedback ma piu` che mai scatenato in infuocati assoli, il secondo disco, Medicine Show (A&M, 1984), risulta molto piu` rilassato, nonostante una lunga e febbrile jam/deliquio intitolata John Coltrane Stereo Blues. Il repertorio assimila il melodramma di strada alla Springsteen (Merrittville), il roadhouse viscerale alla Doors (Armed With An Empty Gun) e ballate country/blues erotiche (Still Holding On To You) o sociali (Medicine Show).

Il terzo Out Of The Grey (Big Time, 1986) sterzo` verso il country-rock "acido" di Neil Young, con Paul Cutler al posto di Precoda e un sound infinitamente piu` moderno, ballabile e radiofonico (Now I Ride Alone, Forest For The Trees, la title-track, Slide Away). Wynn aveva preso il sopravvento e preferiva il formato tradizionale della canzone (con tanto di storia e di atmosfera) alle eruzioni free-form di Precoda e Smith.

Completando un'evoluzione (o "involuzione") iniziata da Medicine Show, Ghost Stories (Enigma, 1988) sanciva l'avvento di una canzone rock senza rumori e senza distrazioni, ancorata classicamente alla melodia. La nuova carriera di Wynn si inserisce nel filone inaugurato da Neil Young con le sue violente ed elettriche ballate folk. Wynn le plasma per anthem da giovane arrabbiato come The Side I'll Never Show e drammi marziali come Loving The Sinner, Hating The Sin (uno dei suoi capolavori). Benche' il disco ospiti anche la novelty da vaudeville My Old Haunts, una ninnananna sconsolata alla Cohen come Someplace Better Than This e il roadhouse blues Weathered And Torn, il nuovo genere e` ormai chiaramente definito, e non ha piu` nulla delle vertigini psichedeliche delle origini (che forse appartenevano piu` a Kendra Smith che a lui).

Wynn esprime una visione truce e pessimista della condizione umana attraverso un fatalismo depresso da film-noir; ma la morale delle sue saghe negative e` sempre all'insegna della speranza di redenzione. In tal senso la sua e` una musica catartica, nobile anche nei momenti di massima afflizione, al contrario di quella di Young, che non ammette rivincita, e di Reed, che gode del martirio. Cio` non toglie che la redenzione (ovvero i climax solenni di tanti suoi ritornelli) si debba ottenere passando per prove di dolore intenso (reso dalle tremende piogge di distorsioni). Wynn e` uno dei pochi, con Richard Hell, che sappia far sanguinare i versi delle sue canzoni.

Steve Wynn ha poi lanciato una prolifica carriera solista.

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