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Steve Wynn | Emusic Singles Collection
Ah, the past. A simpler time of unmediated and instant pleasures. Once an artist would step into a recording studio, sing a couple of takes and, within days, a small, hard piece of black plastic would be spinning over countless turntables across the world. These days even fruit is frozen and entombed for six months before it reaches our shelves. Everything is delayed and stored, recorded and re-recorded, mixed to the death. In an innovative maneouver, Steve Wynn has taken the cutting edge of music technology and distribution (the downloadable Mp3) and used it to recreate the heady days of the 7" single. For Emusic.com he recorded one song a month which was then available from the website. The turnover time between writing and downloading was often under a week. But is it any good or are time-honoured studio jags actually there for something other than making various people rich? Well, the answer is a defiant yes. You can veritably feel the rush and pulse of execution amongst these tracks, the spontaneous, whirlwind charm that Wynn's previous solo albums have sometimes lacked (though this year's 'Here Come The Miracles' shows he can do it without a deadline too.) Wynn's taken the discrete nature of these songs as an opportunity to collaborate with different musicians (in several different countries) and the result is probably the most eclectic Steve Wynn album yet. From the debauched sleaze rock of Strange New World to the hungover lullaby At The End Of The Day, this record positively crackles. Last House On The Right is a prime example of Wynn's creepy, noir narrative style, achieving a palpable tension with its insistent piano riff and ghostly harmonica, like something off the last Tom Waits album. Strings and electronic effects grace Last One Standing, a collaboration with Spanish band Australian Blondes (who Wynn's also recorded a whole album with) - Wynn sounds suitably deranged and the whole thing could be Warren Oates' theme song in Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. Melinda is a high octane collaboration with Television's Richard Lloyd who produces a blissfully intense solo halfway through. It seems that the collaborative nature of this project has freed Wynn to create tracks as different sounding as the banjo plucked duet with Barbara Manning (The Way I Feel Right Now), the Spaghetti western reverb-drenched The Devil's Not That Kind and the shimmering, sinister electronica of Merry Go Round with its slinky, Prince style, soul falsetto. The only non new track is a wonderful Gutterball outtake, Shake And Bake, a delirious stop and start vision of pre-apocalyptic LA ("Gold records melting down / Scriptwriters leaving town") that could have been conjured up by Nathaniel West or Raymond Carver. The sleeve notes state the intention of immediacy and freshness - there's no doubt that Wynn's achieved those but there's also a new breadth to the material here that makes this an addictive and compulsive listen.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002

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