The Dream Syndicate: How Did I Find Myself Here? Album Review
The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here? (ANTI- Records)
CD / DL / Vinyl
Released 8 September 2017
US Alt-rock vets & contemporaries of REM, reformed and reinvigorated release best work of their career. “It’s psychedelic, it’s rocking, it’s garage, it’s classic and it’s even a soul and jazz record in the most literal sense, a sonic and emotional journey to the deepest recesses of your mind.” say the Syndicate. American Krautrock which could have soundtracked ‘Breaking Bad’ ventures Ged Babey…?
I had a plan, for 30 years.
It changes just as easily as shiftin’ gears.
The only thing which scares me more than getting caught
is to stop and think about the lies I bought..
This album would have made a great soundtrack to ‘Breaking Bad’. The drama and tension is already there in the music, which is widescreen, yet close-up and personal. It is roadtrip music, a dark and narcotic journey across the States and in various states of mind….
How Did I Find Myself Here? could’ve been the existentialist romantic album of the year. But Peter Perrett released the greatest comeback album since Lazarus in 2017… so the Dream Syndicate are gonna have to settle for second place (in my book at least.)
This is a stunning album. A guitar(s) album. A rockin’, transcendental album. An album where every song is different to the last yet has a cohesion which means you have to listen to the whole goddamn thing in one sitting. It goes from sounding like prime Stipe, to Crazy Horse playing Krautrock, to star-gazing dream-pop, to Doors-y bluesy roadkill rock’n’roll… to poetry’n’drone and back again.
The Dream Syndicate sound like a brand new band who can’t quite believe how good they are… there early material is a lifetime away, and I’m sure it was good, but there’s just no need to look back.
( I’ll be honest; I just never ‘got into them’ way-back in the ’80’s. I missed out. They got lumped in with the dull Green On Red , the Rain Parade and the Long Ryders; the Paisley Underground so they got completely overlooked on my small planet. The ‘college-rock’ tag was probably off-putting as well.)
So anyway, here is why this album is essential, track by track, in my humble opinion;
Filter Me Through You – A beautiful piece to open -hit single material – could almost be a follow-up to The One I Love by REM or a lost track from the Psychedelic Furs ‘Talk Talk Talk’ album – If I can’t have you… I’m in the ether. It’s now or neither. Filter Me Through You. Now, that is a great bit of oblique love-song lyric-writing… The whole idea of your true-love being a psychic filter who can remove all of your impurities and harmful matter. Brilliant.
Glide – This is an absolute monster psych-slow-motion-snow-storm of a track. Guitars reverberate and ‘glide’… A masterclass in how to do stratospheric ‘dream-pop’ for all the younger new psych acts attempting this kind of thing. Anchored by a heavy bass-line and with an ‘open-to-interpretation’ lyric, ‘I may never get higher / I don’t have to come down/ I just glide…. In an interview here Steve Wynn says of the lyric, that it is “…a mantra for the Existence Period, as the great writer Richard Ford once said, detailing the strange exhilaration and freedom of knowing the end is closer than the beginning.”
Out of My Head – Velvets style beat, Crazy Horse guitar-scree, a sound like sawing thru sheet-metal. Ends up sounding like the Mary Chain at their most dark, heavy and repetitive – but the Dream Syndicate were doing this shit years before the Reids. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have never managed to get anywhere near this, despite trying.
80 West American Road Movie music with cavernous bass. Lyrics about crossing the county line, the radio on ” Some talk-show zombie boring me to death” and the 30 years/shifting gears quote I started with. Vaguely reminiscent of Pixies but to my mind its more Krautrock Americana, a cinematic sound with snaking, howling guitars intertwining… Tom Verlaines Television were of course an influence, but even they are surpassed.
Like Mary A heartrendingly sad song about ‘people who spend there whole lives waiting’. The gentlest song on the album with treated slide guitar wails ebbing and flowing. The whole album is one which guitar-players with banks of effects-pedals will love -for the range and diversity of guitar-sounds
The Circle. This is a surprise. It could be Dinosaur Jnr ! J Mascis loves the band and they in turn seem to acknowledge it by copping a bit of his bands style. This is sheer condensed energy and a juggernaut of sound.
How Did I Find Myself Here. The title track is relaxed funky groove and it has to be said, a bit of a Doors-y epic 11 minutes and also reminds me of Magazines take on Sly Stones Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). Steve Wynn is more of a song-stylist than a great singer; he acts as a narrator more than anything else. It’s peculiar to think of the Dream Syndicate supporting U2 in the USA in the early 80’s.
Kendras’s Dream – Kendra Smith was the original Dream Syndicate bassist. A cult-artist in her own right due to the fact she made astounding music with the band Opal -who went on to become Mazzy Star – whilst she did a ‘disappearing act‘ and chose to live in a cabin in the woods with no electricity. This cosmic poetry and drone epic recalls her forebears Nico and Patti Smith, but she is a unique voice. It’s a stunning way to close the album (before you start again at the beginning…)
The publicity blurb for this new album is so detailed, articulate and full of positivity that I’m reproducing it here, in full, not because rock criticism is dead (there is nothing here to criticize, it’s a near-perfect album!) and churnalism has taken over, but because it says it all. It’s fact not bull. But, then again, the photo below also speaks volumes, this is band who are happy to be back together and confident they are making their best-ever work.
What can we tell you about the new record?
Well, let’s see. It’s true to our history, a bounty of gifts for everyone who’s been there since the old days and yet unlike anything we ever did before. It’s a post-millennial existential screed that feels like RIGHT NOW and at the same time a timeless joyous thrill ride. It’s psychedelic, it’s rocking, it’s garage, it’s classic, it’s indie and it’s even a soul and jazz record in the most literal sense, a sonic and emotional journey to the deepest recesses of your mind. It’s what we do on stage and yet it’s brand new. Most of all, we dig it. A lot. See you soon.
Steve, Jason, Mark and Dennis (the Dream Syndicate)
On 8 September, The Dream Syndicate will release their fifth studio album, How Did I Find Myself Here? The band’s first album since 1988, and their debut for ANTI- Records.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, the Dream Syndicate was founded by current members Steve Wynn (guitar, vocals) and Dennis Duck (drums), along with Karl Precoda (guitar) and Kendra Smith (bass). With its widely celebrated 1982 debut The Days of Wine and Roses, the band soon emerged at the forefront of the 1980s college-rock scene.
Following the release of three more albums (1984’s Medicine Show, 1986’s Out of the Grey, and 1988’s Ghost Stories), the Dream Syndicate split up indefinitely—then reunited for a Spanish music festival in 2012. With its lineup now including guitarist Jason Victor, the band has since played over 50 shows and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 2016, they headed into the studio and began working on their first album in nearly 30 years.
“It sounds like everything that I loved about the Dream Syndicate and yet How Did I Find Myself Here? “[The magic] was there with almost as much ease and grace as the first rehearsal we had three years before in Madrid, despite [longtime bassist] Mark Walton, Dennis Duck and I having not played together for several decades,” says Wynn of the making of sounds unlike any other record we made.”
Over the years, the Dream Syndicate has proven to be a massively influential force in the world of alternative rock, with artists like Kurt Cobain listing the band among their inspirations. As Wynn points out, the band itself was greatly influenced by underground pioneers like the Fall, the Gun Club, Neu!, and Big Star.
“I always felt that the Dream Syndicate was largely about receiving, carrying and then passing along a torch of the bands that we loved passionately but who didn’t necessarily get the love and attention they deserved, living in the shadows as cult favorites, secret passwords into a society of musical fanaticism and time-delayed impact on generations to come,” he says.
Here, several of the Dream Syndicate’s most notable admirers continue that tradition and discuss their favorite tracks from the band:
“It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to play ‘Tell Me When It’s Over’ with Steve over the last few years. The Dream Syndicate version is a perfect distillation of Los Angeles noir and febrile, menacing garage rock.” – Peter Buck, R.E.M.
“‘Halloween’ is an eerie number. When the second guitar kicks in I think of a stage covered with fog, Karl stepping to the front of the stage and unashamedly striking a rock pose. It helped me feel alright about playing leads which were so hated at the time. Steve’s more jangly sound also influenced my choice of getting a Fender for my first guitar to start Dinosaur. I wanted to write some songs, strum, then kick in to some fuzz for the lead. It was all there in the Dream Syndicate.” – J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr
“The Days of Wine and Roses was my introduction to the Dream Syndicate, and the very beginning of my love affair with the band and their music. My discovery coincided with the writing/recording of our second album, and our song ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ was inspired by (and named in homage of) theirs. While I like the album version, I LOVE the version from Live At Raji’s, which is not only my favourite Dream Syndicate album, but one of my favourite live albums of all time.” – Brian King, Japandroids
Sometimes bands reforming after so long and trying to awaken their creativity just doesn’t work. The spark has gone. They go thru the motions… with the Dream Syndicate it seems to me that the spark is not only there, but it has lit a bonfire and this is a band at a majestic blazing peak in there artistic journey and they are looking down from the mountain-top, smiling and thinking; Fuck-Yeah, we have made the best album we possibly could; It stands alongside all the classics made by our influences and all the greats made by our contemporaries and by the later generations too. Or maybe they are just thinking; How Did We Find Ourselves Here?
The Dream Syndicate UK Tour Dates
October 30th, 2017 – London – The Lexington (UK)
October 31st, 2017 – London – The Lexington (UK)
November 1st, 2017 – Leeds – Brudenell Social Club (UK)
November 2nd 2017 – Southampton -The 1865
For more information on The Dream Syndicate and worldwide tour dates visit:
All words by Ged Babey (except indented quotations from Press release)