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Dream Syndicate | Days of Wine and Roses
From its stark De Stijl / Blue Note inspired sleeve to the fading chords of the title track the Dream Syndicate's first full length album was quite unlike anything else released in that synthesizer drenched year, 1982. To say that a single band 'saved' rock n roll is both trite and reductive, and yet, listening to this lovingly produced re-issue, you can't help feeling that if any band did hold the flame and somehow manage to push it further, the Syndicate did. Tell Me When It's Over opens the album with a skewed, twisting guitar riff - brutal and sinewy, as Wynn's resigned, deadpan vocals chronicle another dissolving relationship. It's a breathtaking opener; by combining the dual guitar attack of Crazy Horse and Television, adding some Velvety dissonance to the mix, The Dream Syndicate created a startling alternative to the likes of ABC, Soft Cell, Foreigner and Boston. Definitely Clean is twisted, compressed and punctured John Lee Hooker blues, like a car crunched and creamed until it's just a block of metal the size of a small dog. The almost poppy That's What You Always Say follows, a minor rock classic that glides on Kendra Smith's mellifluous bass line, underpinned by Dennis Duck's sure footed Maureen Tucker stomp as guitars snake around the rhythm like stealth helicopters. Through this maelstrom, Wynn's voice rises, narrating dark tales of spousal abuse and murder. Halloween is up next, a masterpiece of slowly creeping menace and release. The spooky declensions of Kendra's bass counterpoint the dark stalker's confession of the narrative leading to a superbly intense meltdown that makes me think the Dream Syndicate are the punk Grateful Dead. The aching, feedback drenched When You Smile follows, sounding like something off the third VU album if Cale had still been at the controls. Kendra Smith's only ever vocal for the band, Too Little, Too Late, is a thing of fragile, delicate beauty like the calm in the vortex of the hurricane - to compare it to Afterhours would be facile and, besides, it's better than that. The album closes with the epic title track, a combination of free jazz, punk and garage rock whose tale of suicide and recrimination could have been written by Tennessee Williams over a drink with Thom Jones. Primal, bloodsplattered rock n roll of the highest degree. Rhino have added the band's first EP (25 minutes of mercurial feedback rock), a couple of early rehearsal sessions and Wynn's debut single under the name of 15 Minutes (an embryonic That's What You Always Say) to make this one of the best reissues I've seen in a long time. Though their reference points were obvious, the Dream Syndicate created a sound quite unlike anything that came before them, or indeed, after. This is where American rock music reinvented itself from the decaffeinated wastelands of AOR, where it blowtorched the recent past and made way for a future that was to include Grunge, Post Rock and Quite simply some of the most wildly exciting music ever made.

Stav Sherez
November 2001