The Dream Syndicate
1984 was a loathsome year for music. It’s hard to recall that era without flinching — we’re talking Phil Collins and Kenny Loggins, Duran Duran and New Edition. But for every sugar sweet bit of ear floss that MTV foisted upon us, there were gems lurking in the dark. Husker Du’s Zen Arcade and My War from Black Flag hit the streets that year, and R.E.M., The Smiths, and a few others kept us from ramming knitting needles in our ears.
And this, The Dream Syndicate’s masterpiece, Medicine Show. Producer Sandy Pearlman, who had manned the boards for the second Clash album (Give ‘Em Enough Rope) and Blue Oyster Cult, captured Steve Wynn and crew in all their Velvet Underground/Neil Young literate, raging glory. Too bad the album and its lack of success in the market doomed the band to a early death, but even now, 25 years down the road, moments like the weary, swaggering “Bullet with My Name on It” or the creepy “Daddy’s Girl” still manage to startle us with their combination of heart and muscle, sinew and cynicism. This reissue adds the This Is Not the New Dream Syndicate Album Live! EP as bonus tracks, and hearing Wynn and the incredible Karl Precoda battle it out, guitars blazing, marks the steep contrast between The Dream Syndicate and the better known voices of the era. Peter Buck once called the album the Exile on Main Street of the ’80s, and he’s right — if Lou Reed had fronted the Stones, that is.
You might have missed this high water mark of American rock the first time, but there is no excuse to make that mistake again. Pick this up and see why for some of us, the ’80s didn’t totally suck. Medicine Show is a glorious, rowdy anthem of love, loss, regret, and pain that hasn’t aged a bit in 25 years. Take your medicine — you’ll enjoy it.
Piccadilly Records: www.piccadillyrecords.com