The Dream Syndicate are up there with Peter Perrett and Slowdive for the “Comeback Kids of the Year” award. The thing that all three of those acts have in common is the fact that they’ve built on their previous work and improved on it
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1987 was the new 1967. In the US, sales of Rickenbacker guitars must have gone through the roof as a generation of musicians, bored by synths and constricted by the new wave, decided that their parents record collections were way hipper than what was happening in the top forty. Bon Jovialbums were quietly hidden in the backs of wardrobes and everyone pretended that their favourite album was “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”. College radio jingle-jangled along to the sounds of The Bangles and R.E.M and if you weren’t in paisley, you were an outcast. Unless you were The Dream Syndicate.
For their first album since 1988, The Dream Syndicate have stuck to the criteria they used thirty years ago – loud guitars, loud drums and lots of darkness. They got it right then. It’s even more right now. “How Did I Find Myself Here?” might just be one of the standout albums of 2017 for fans of the electric guitar. The band, helmed by Steve Wynn, have simply picked up where they left off and the results are better than we could have hoped for. What set The Dream Syndicate apart from their contemporaries in the eighties was the fact that, as much as they loved Roger McGuinn, they thought Sterling Morrison was better. While their peers jangled, The Dream Syndicate were launching into fuzzed up, Tom Verlaine-meets-garagerock style guitar freakouts and thankfully, that’s the prevalent mindset on “How Did I Find Myself Here?” Except the guitars are louder and rawer than ever. Which is nice.
So, it quickly becomes obvious that age has not mellowed The Dream Syndicate. Back in the day, one criticism of the band was their studio albums were a bit… hesitant. Red light fever and all that. “How Did I Find Myself Here?” is not hesitant. Not hesitant at all. From the opener “Filter Me Through You”, the loud pedal is down and will stay down for the next 49 minutes. “Glide” and “Out of My Head” have a relentless, Velvets style drive which could exhaust a younger band. And deafen them too – My Bloody Valentine style guitar washes are all over the place and the rhythm section are utterly relentless throughout. The bass line on “80 West” is especially filthy.
There are no traces of 2017 in this music. The band have looked at the musical landscape around them and thrown their hands up in despair, then washed the grime of a dying music industry off them. This music owes more to Quicksilver Messenger Service than it does to anything contemporary – which somehow makes it more cutting edge. Just to hammer home the nouveau-psychedelia tag, the title track is eleven minutes of spacey electric piano, gnarly guitar and an almost funky rhythm section. Occasionally, you may think of Sonic Youth when listening to “How Did I Find Myself Here?” but a less-art school version of Sonic Youth. Older. Wiser. More relaxed.
The Dream Syndicate are up there with Peter Perrett and Slowdive for the “Comeback Kids of the Year” award. The thing that all three of those acts have in common is the fact that they’ve built on their previous work and improved on it. No one has rested on their laurels. The difference is that The Dream Syndicate have crashed the party, drunk all the hard liquor and are now looking for stuff to break. And they say that young people are troublemakers.
“How Did I Find Myself Here?” is available from September 9th on ANTI Records