Review of The Day Before Wine And Roses

by Nigel Cross
issued on Hartbeat! #18 (Summer/Autumn 1995)

They were contenders - more than any other band in 1982, the Dream Syndicate dragged rock 'n' roll screaming and kicking into a new decade. Wrought on the anvil of LA's thriving punk scene, the Syndicate oozed with a primeval class. They shoulda been bigger than REM, Nirvana even. But instead, they got side-tracked: leader Steve Wynn just couldn't keep the group dynamic in fact - their bass player split soon after this, and despite some high times, later on, they never hit this peak again.
It's hard to believe what pop music consisted of back in September '82. In Britain, we were going through one of those periodic witch-hunts, it was politically correct to say you hated "guitars", it was the era of anti-rock, a time to hibernate, unless limp-wristed synth bands were bagged. And then they came - like a big beautiful comet, and single-handedly they carried the flame. Before Dennis got God, before Kendra Moved to her beloved redwoods, before Karl gave up guitar for script-writing, before Steve moved the goal-posts and dreamed of stadium-rock, this album captures the quintessential Syndicate. Yeah, I know it's been out as a bootleg for years, but now you can buy it in your local store. Full marks to super fan Pat Thomas for releasing his ambitions - Normal oughta give him a bonus. Here it is in all its butt-naked glory - the celebration of a line-up, we never saw here in Europe. Ensemble playing like you never heard its Wynn's song-link banter is flip, a gas, the sky's the f***ing limit. Gasp as they take off into Open Hours (John Coltrane Stereo Blues to be). The Velvets-comparisons that always dogged 'em in those days, now seem totally pointless - to me, they had the improvisational capabilities of those early San Francisco bands like Quicksilver or goin' back another generation, those fabulous horn-players like Parker. Precoda is one of only three living guitarists who tear me to shreds like this (and the other two, Tom Verlaine and Richard Treece never go off their heads like young Karl!!). Thirteen years on, they're almost a chimera; it's hard to believe they ever existed…
Up on rock 'n' roll boot-hill, this should be their headstone. Yes Pat, I wish I'd been there that night at KPFK - this is the Dream Syndicate, totally elemental, totally inspirational. All the tracks from that first Down There EP, some wacky cover versions and a lot of guitar feedback. Crank up the volume, put the white wine in the freeze, and remember 'em this way.

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