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STILL IN THE "DREAM": The Dream Syndicate's "How Did I Find Myself Here?" a welcome return

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti-) 2017

Has it really been nearly 30 years since The Dream Syndicate released their last album, Ghost Stories? Apparently. The time just slips away.

Which is why I say “better late than never,” guys!

I was introduced to the band’s music by a childhood friend back in the late 1980’s. He was always on top of the edgy, independent rock coming out during that era, with their 1986 record Out of the Grey being a particular favorite. And just as I was getting into the Paisley Underground legends, they broke up.

But lead singer/songwriter Steve Wynn managed to keep a decent solo career going, really impressing me with 1992’s Dazzling Display.

And while I dug Wynn’s solo material, I always hoped The Dream Syndicate would reform, and in recent years, Wynn, bassist Mark Walton and drummer Dennis Duck – of the original lineup – were involved, as was Wynn’s guitar-slinging sideman Jason Victor (band co-found Kendra Smith and original guitarist Karl Precoda are not involved in this 2017 incarnation, although Smith does co-write the epic “Kendra’s Dream,” singing on it as well, with a  voice reminding me of Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano).

So how is the new material? Damn good. This is the way rock records were meant to be made. I just wish it hadn’t taken Wynn and the band so long to make How Did I Find Myself Here?

Produced by the band and Chris Cacavas (who plays keyboard on the record), the guitar onslaught of “The Circle” with its existential lyrics and unrelenting drive. I remember when songs of this caliber were the rule and not the exception in indie-rock circles, as it were.

The Lloyd Cole-esque “Glide” and “Filter Me Through You” both have a certain lyrical satisfaction about them. And being the first two songs on the record, they evoke that 1980's indie-rock era, particularly the somewhat gloomier and more introspective side of the scene, especially "Filter," which has that 1987 thing going on to the point I could probably direct the music video and nail the mood it is conveying.

As for Steve Wynn, his voice sounds great. Reminds me of how I heard Wynn's contemporary, Green on Red's Dan Stuart, on a recent record with Mexican surf-rock band Twin Tones (reviewed here). Wynn and Stuart aren't exactly young men any longer, but they still have some amazing talent and a desire to continue honing their craft in their 50's. 

And with this new record, my order came complete with a booklet of lyrics (and doodles) written, John Lennon style, by Wynn himself. They were collected and sent to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Special lyric booklet that accompanied How Did I Find Myself Here? (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

“Like Mary” is a moody, Yo La Tengo-esque number (even though it reportedly has a long history, dating back to the band's early days), with Wynn’s vocal intonation shifting into a softer place, along with echoing guitars and Duck’s light-touch drumming.

Walton’s throbbing bass line on “80 West,” along with Victor’s menacing guitar lines help give this great song the propulsion and vigor it needs. What I want to know, Mr. Wynn, is what really happened on 80 West? With that “Had me in a dream for 30 years,” we can only wonder what dark secrets remain hidden - kind of like the band's unforgettable 1982 number "Halloween." Now that song is tailor-made for an paranormal show set in the 80's, like Stranger Things.

And yes, dreams are key to the lyrics here. We can learn so much from our dreams. Perhaps it’s appropriate this new record came out as TV viewers were in the midst of deciphering the 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, presented to us in a surreal and maddening Trumpsidedown America where the visual art (and in the band’s case – aural art) asks more questions than it answers, while putting a mortal mirror in front of our faces. Wynn and his chums understand this.

The title track is a full-fledged, psychedelic-soul-jam number that you can’t help but get lost in. I would have loved to have been in the studio when they recorded this one (love Cacavas’s Ray Manzarek-styled organ flourishes) as they just found that groove, man!

Go to thedreamsyndicate.com for more on this great band. Welcome back!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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