Sunday, March 16, 2008

DREAM SYNDICATE - The Days Of Wine And Roses LP (Slash/1982)
In the last few months I've finally broken through: the greatness of this album has clicked, seeped its way into my brain, and become something of great pleasure. I've owned this LP for a good ten years or more; found it cheap second-hand and figured it my duty to own a record held in such high esteem by the cognescenti. I knew all about the band, of course, but had never really kicked back and taken them in. And so I did. I was not overwhelmed. Sounded like (to paraphrase what Joe Carducci once wrote of the band) just the kind of mediocrity bound for major-label failure (and the band did, later on, prove to be a major-label failure, as they attempted the leap and missed). I filed it away, let it sit on the shelf to impress anyone who might happen to stumble upon it (I'm pretty sure that Richard Onya once remarked on its greatness many a year back), and blissfully ignored it. What, after all, was the appeal?
If you were one to listen to Byron Coley's words as gospel (and, let's face it, there was such a time), the Dream Syndicate were the ultimate Velvets/drone/noise-rock ensemble to beat all others, their crushing freakouts legendary in the LA club scene of the day, and their early material was the meeting point of Velvets/Byrds psychedelic drone, LA punk and Fall-style garage-art nonsense.
A long time ago, upon playing this, I figured them to be a critic's band whom no-one really liked or listened to, and all this praise was a bunch of baloney cooked up coz Coley was buddies w/ Steve Wynn or Chris D. or whoever, and somehow everyone else towed the line and the band's alleged greatness was all based on a bunch of shuck 'n' jive. Well, let me say that The Days Of Wine And Roses - an album I pulled out again after having read Clinton Heylin's "definitive" punk bio, Babylon's Burning, and having spun Opal's Happy Nightmare Baby LP for the 10,000th time - is not, so far as I can see, an example of raw genius, but a very superior take on a sound which bridges the gap between classic early LA punk and some more "mature" antecedents of its day, namely the Velvets, Byrds, Dylan, Chilton and the Modern Lovers. Wynn claims he was just ripping off The Fall most of the time, saying that critics missed the mark when they deemed him a Lou rip-off. Whatever the case, this really is a fine album, a definitive LA classic in its sound and approach, one I'd be proud to place next to other, similar outings, whether it be Waiting For the Sun, Younger Than Yesterday, (GI), Damaged or Born Innocent. Damn, it's taken 10 years, but it feels worth it.


Mrow said...

I do like this record too - the songs are great ones - but to my ears it now sounds top heavy. Karl's gtr is out-of-this-world, totally stratospheric in aim, while the rhythm section just plays it all really safe and simple. It doesn't match. Later DS bassist Dave Provost once told me drummer Dennis Duck was actually really great in live settings, but he'd freeze up in the studio.

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matt said...

i love this record too. i picked it up at a katoomba second hand record shop when i was about 17, just on the strength of its cover. hadn't listened to it for ages, but i pulled it out earlier this year to play in a dj set. still great.