While hip hop was coming out of NYC streets, the Dream Syndicate was hammering against LA studio walls in the name of rock ’n’ roll, attacking songs such as “Tell Me When It’s Over” and “That’s What You Always Say” with the vigor of a conniption fit and the pained skronk of rigor mortis. The Days of Wine and Roses, rereleased here by Rhino, is 1982 DS at the group’s — and anybody else at that historical moment — best, wild yawping in Velvety swagger through nine great cuts of post-punk fuzz and lyrical frustration.
Whether it’s the haunting power of “Halloween,” or the final rave-up of “The Days of Wine and Roses,” the DS is hopelessly stuck in it all; lyrics and song titles scream for a relief and deliverance that none of Steve Wynn’s vocals believe. Amid guitarists Wynn and Karl Precoda’s churning fuzz, Kendra Smith’s adequately angry bass lines and Dennis Duck’s no-frills drumming are characters — all men except for Kendra Smith’s vocals on “Too Little, Too Late” — that continue to take shit from everybody; drug-addict friends and lovers, total bores and threatening crushes. Only the guitars seem to resonate with possible resolution, bridges angrily crawling against lyrics and choruses, the only complex explanations for an existence spent waiting for some ass to shut up.
All that plus none of the post/pre/primitive punk ids referenced by the Syndicate — Velvets, Modern Lovers, Big Star, Television — get poisoned. As painfully great as they are ignored by anyone younger than 30, the Dream Syndicate was that rare band, full of influences but alive with rock instinct, enough to pull off one great record before drifting to forgotten second-tier status. The eight-finishing demos and B-sides added to this reissue only prove that the band really meant what it said the first time.
E-mail Carleton S. Gholz at firstname.lastname@example.org.