This new four-CD collection from the Dream Syndicate, History Kinda Pales When It And You Are Aligned (Fire Records) is what you might call a throwback. It completely reminds me what it was like to find a new band back in the 80s, to get knocked out by a debut album and reach over to the tape traders to see what kind of live recordings, early demos and other audio gems might be found by this new obsession. When you were lucky, these tapes could reveal a new side to the band – songs you hadn’t heard, what kind of covers they might break into on a wild night.
And with this particular trove of recordings, you can really hear one of the great, short-lived combos of the era in its natural setting, a roaring forest fire of pure power that becomes refined to a kiln furnace in time for a single album-length studio recording, then burns out, in a little over twelve months. Dream Syndicate would go on to make more records, later in the life of singer-guitarist Steve Wynn and drummer Dennis Duck. Some of the music they’ve made has been great, including some made in the last few years. But during that first year, when they had Kendra Smith on bass and Karl Precoda on guitar, they were a unique beast of a band, one worth spending some time with.
Their debut EP and LP are here, in a superb sounding remaster. The Days Of Wine and Roses remains a perfect album, with no dud tracks, so confident in itself, it saves the sublime surprise of Kendra’s voice for the back half of side two. The accomplishment of capturing this combo in a single 8-hour session is made more astonishing by the evidence of what the group was like live at the time of its recording. These performances are WILD – exploratory, unchained and lurching out of control, bearing little resemblance to the band on the album. But the songs are there, so is the unique style, Dennis and Kendra holding down the ship with little flair but a hard, unshakeable groove. Meanwhile Wynn and Precoda splatter like Jackson Pollock out of the amplifiers, ready to take these tunes anywhere.
There are moments that evoke Television and others that remind one of the VU, while Wynn can he heard introducing his own “Sure Thing” as “Bay Area psychedelic, like Blue Cheer and Quicksilver and the Airplane!” Mostly, you’ll be reminded what it’s like to hear a band that really gets off on the sound of itself. Yeah, I can recommend that.