Features Lost Albums

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

Our latest Lost Albums feature lands at in the Paisley Underground.

Just recently we paid tribute to Tom Verlaine, who had a huge influence on this instalment of Lost Albums. Released in 1982, The Days of Wine and Roses was The Dream Syndicate’s debut full length album and released on Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records (alongside The Gun Club’s cult classic and debut, Fire of Love).

To this day, The Days of Wine and Roses remains their most enduring work, and whilst carrying the torch forward for this brand of post-punk rock ’n ’ roll, would actually spearhead a little known movement from the early to mid-eighties coined the ‘Paisley Underground’, sharing the space with the likes of Green on Red and Game Theory – the movement basically a regurgitation of psychedelic west coast rock bands of the sixties, merging with the more experimental and estranged sounds of the east coast from that time period.

The four-piece, led by guitarist and vocalist Steve Wynn, guitarist Karl Precoda, bassist Kendra Smith and drummer Dennis Duck, would be the only time they would record together. Over the next three albums, Winn and Duck remained the only constants in the line-up without ever really re-capturing the fire of  The Days of Wine and Roses, with Medicine Show (1984), Out of the Grey (1986), and the final album of the initial period, Ghost Stories (1988) before they would break up a year later before reforming in 2017.

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Whilst the band were hugely competent in engineering soulful melodies, the guitar interplay between Wynn and Precoda was smooth as silk. Like forefathers Verlaine and Lloyd from five years previous would, they indulged in the shambolic ragged distortions of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, a combination that was overlooked at the time and still to this day sounds as sharp, as ever as The Dream Syndicate’s legacy sits well below the mainstream (another tale of garnering critics adoration and college radio station plays but underwhelming sales), but what’s important to note is that this little gem from the early eighties will forever sit as one of the most self-assured debut alternative rock albums ever made.

Produced by Chris.D, a masterstroke in personnel, as D – hailing from The Flesh Eaters – a band who swam in similar waters, releasing arguably their most acclaimed record to date A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die a year prior, would steer The Days… to glory. In addition to producing his own band’s albums, he would produce The Gun Club’s Fire of Love and Green on Red’s Gravity Talks.

Recorded in Hollywood’s Quad Tech Studios over three consecutive nights booked from midnight to eight in the morning, Wynn and Co. took a shot at it and hit a three. Whether or not Wynn penned a pessimistic and darker set of tracks leading to an career of more or less obscurity as compared to say to Paisley companions The Bangles, and the similar trajectory of  R.E.M. it’s a sprawling, messy rip-it-up-and-start-again rock record.

The Dream Syndicate

The Days… is nine tracks in total. Tell Me When It’s Over is the album opener and a somewhat strained in its approach which is an absolute tone setter of anthemic angular guitar-athon brilliance. The repetitive ten note or so guitar pattern is back to front here with a sweet chorus all lyrically under pinned by a likely failing relationship.

Definitely Clean speeds it up with more of a punk feel, bookended by some purely exciting guitar licking and minor soloing. Then She Remembers is a rock ’n’ roll salute to all the jazz freak-outs Wynn has been inspired by over the time, perhaps name dropping Pharoah Sanders with the best chorus the album has to offer (When She Smiles a close second), whilst offering up one of the most stirring guitar arrangements.

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Whilst Halloween offers some of the most gloriously jagged guitar interplay and sits as the spine of the record at just over six minutes of Verlaine-esque squalor and musical brilliance. Until Lately offers musically perhaps the most upbeat composition on the record, back by marvellous harmonica hooks, gravely vocal deliveries, nonsensical ba ba-ing back up singing with a showcase of discordant guitars to cap it off, a sensational three course meal for the listener.

Too Little Too Late is the penultimate track here, which is the most different musically from anything. It’s also sung by Smith, before closing it out with the title track; also the longest on the record at seven-and-a-half minutes. Defiant in its tone, squalling guitars fill out the runtime as the guitars rattle and scratch their way through presenting an odyssey of noise and ragged gloriousness as it thrashes its way to conclusion.

Steve Wynn most likely didn’t want to be defined by an album he recorded in his early ’20s but call it lightening in a bottle or whatever other term you want to go with, but The Days of Wine and Roses is a true underground indie rock/post-punk masterpiece and certainly deserves to be heard by more people and with the likes of more articles like this might put in frame with the likes of Marquee Moon and Co.

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