Music

The Dream Syndicate: How Did I Find Myself Here?

Photo: Chris Sikich

Nearly 30 years on, the Dream Syndicate sound even more revelatory and energized than when last heard from them.


The Dream Syndicate

How Did I Find Myself Here?

US Release: 2017-09-08
UK Release: 2017-09-08
Label: Anti-
Amazon
iTunes

Steve Wynn will never be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He's too good, his career too varied, and he has influenced all the wrong people to earn enshrinement in that monument to corporate-approved rebellion. All of this is to compliment his ongoing and stubborn conviction to follow his muse and artistic vision. Wynn remains a restless spirit, not afraid to take chances and carefree as to whether his efforts inspire critical praise or scorn. He's received enough of either over the years to know that neither really matters. Even when he gives the people what they want, like, say, a new Dream Syndicate record near 30 years on from the last one, he does so on his terms. Everyone is welcome to follow along, just don't tell him what it's supposed to sound like. That's his business.

The new Dream Syndicate record, How Did I Find Myself Here?, doesn't sound like any of the old Dream Syndicate records, which is something that can be said, actually, of each of the previous Dream Syndicate records. Does 1988's Ghost Stories really sound like the same band (or half that original band) that had made Days of Wine & Roses in 1982? Nope. Should both be called "Dream Syndicate records"? Absolutely. The current Dream Syndicate lineup features three of the four members who recorded that last studio album: Wynn, drummer Dennis Duck, and bassist Mark Walton. As he has since the Dream Syndicate's 2012 reformation as a touring unit, Jason Victor (Wynn's longtime partner in Miracle 3) has replaced Paul Cutler on guitar. With three years of touring under their belts, including two 2014 Atlanta performances featuring both Days of Wine & Roses and The Medicine Show played in sequence, this group was tight and possibly more cohesive when entering the studio than any unit previously recording under the name.

How Did I Find Myself Here? sure sounds like it: confident and playful, amped up and in sync. Each of the album's eight songs is unique unto itself, yet all flow together into a cohesive set. The album sounds a bit like the '90s bands that Dream Syndicate influenced, a joyful immersion into collective melodic noise. Few units can soar, grind, and spasm in the ways Dream Syndicate has always been able to conjure at will. "Filter Me Through You" opens the album with an explosion of full-on aggression, all players on hand in a classic song of heartbreak and perseverance. Wynn has always been a great pop songwriter, and this is one of his strongest. So, too, is "Glide", with its soaring chorus of "I just glide / I may never get higher / I don't have to come down." The song, possibly a comment on expectations, both those he set for himself and those imposed by others, is as uplifting as the washes of Wynn and Victor's paired guitar drones.

The darker side of the Dream Syndicate can be heard in "80 West", which drops listeners onto Pennsylvania's long slog of a highway, one of those quintessentially American travel zones that pass between places but through nothing and where when sudden disruption occurs, be it crime or accident, whatever happens there happens in a vacuum that sucks all other travelers in, not to the event itself, but to a void that is the emptiness of waiting for the journey to resume and for life to return to normal. Of course, a grinding song such as this implies that nothing will ever be the same again. Meanwhile, "Outta My Head" is a psychedelic buzzsaw of a song conveying the fact that finding contentment doesn't necessarily mean that everything is okay all of the time, and there's always a need to blow off steam, with or without returning to old, self-destructive habits. And Kendra Smith makes a welcome return to the Dream Syndicate fold, sharing songwriting credits and singing lead on "Kendra's Dream", a welcome, trippy closer that evokes memories of her fine, underappreciated 1992 release Five Ways of Disappearing.

Titling the album How Did I Find Myself Here?, one suspects, is a mix of whimsy and sincerity on Wynn's part. It is kind of amazing that he has been able to forge the long career that he has within a music industry that has ranged from fawning to indifferent regarding his work and which has changed so dramatically since his first recordings. Yet, here he stands, healthy, well-adjusted, and maybe just enjoying his life and career more now than during its promising commercial heyday.

Let the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trade in nostalgia. Steve Wynn is committed to always moving forward, even when he chooses to look back. We are all the beneficiaries.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.