Thursday The Dream Syndicate will play at the Inn Square. But don't go to have a good time. Buffs may hope to 'get in near the group's start. Dilettantes may wish to discover what 'experimental' bands are doing these days. But for those who just want to listen to music they enjoy, the concert and the group's new album will likely be exciting--yet ultimately disappointing.
Throughout their LP The Days of Wine and Roses (Ruby Records) the band has flashes of brilliance, producing snatches of driving guitar play. But repeatedly, experimental aspirations sabotage singer Steve Wynn's songwriting. On "When You Smile" both the lyric continuity and the rhythm are broken by an instrumental intrusion. Even on the closing title cut the finest on the album--the bond puts its propulsive playing on hold white it goes pioneering.
At least in the studio the tendency to stray was checked. On stage at. The Rat Saturday, the group often appeared to have lost control. The opener was Neil Young's "Mr. Soul," an amplified treat that excited the audience. "When You Smile" followed, so honestly sung that the lyrics. "Well it seems like the end of the world when you smile," gained credibility they never had on record, and "Definitely Clean," featured catchy playing and an engaging beat. Pushing towards the stage, people began to jump about and dance. Then the performance fell apart.
In the middle of the song, Wynn began baying, Johnny-Rotten-style. Worse, guitar playing game was to synthesization. The band became an act; the rising excitement waned, and the crowd simply gave up and looked on. Later, the group started many other of its pieces well--particularly "The Days of Wine and Roses"--but could never finish one strongly, without breaking off Such laxness stretched the finale to fifteen minutes, brought the average song's length to 8-9 minutes and finally started to drive the fans away.
Drummer Dennis Duck--at the concert confined to mitigating the disaster unfolding before him--is more effective on record helping the song's rhythms outlast their interruptions. And while producer Chris DesJardins (of the Flesheaters) also brought to the LP a sustaining thickness, it may not have been worth it. Chris D. (as the is credited) took the unevenness of the Syndicates FP Down There and thickens the sound. But while the effort may alike the group to play about without totally following its listeners, the playing needn't strakes all. More serious is the new sound's tendency to conflict with, rather than support the singing. It even happens (as on "Halloween") that the noise buries the song.
Despite their flaws The Dream Syndicate shouldn't be dismissed. Some of the album is terrific and some an error, rather than all being essentially mediocre. Even the concert didn't preclude a future performance of quality. Wynn's songwriting has improved and Down There (as well as parts of the show) demonstrated the group's talent for matching riff to lyric. With maturity they ought to gain control over the new density of sound and their attention to instrumentation. Then they should be unstoppable.