Vinyl Friday #20: The Dream Syndicate “The Days of Wine and Roses”

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This is by far one of my favourite, if not my favourite Paisley Underground album. The Days of Wine and Roses was the first album by The Dream Syndicate, originally released in 1982. It’s a fantastic album that, like many of its time, is grossly over-looked by far too many.

The Dream Syndicate, like many bands in that scene, there is a heavy psychedelic feel to the album, particularly opening song and single “Tell Me When It’s Over”. But Dream Syndicate sound different than their contemporaries in one way in particular: the lyrics. While bands like The Bangles were heavily influenced by pop music, Wynn and co sound mature in the college-radio way.

Wynn’s song writing is fantastic. I think it’s unfortunate that his type of voice doesn’t really appear in contemporary music. “Halloween”, the only track written by guitarist Karl Precoda, clocks in at six and a half minutes. It’s a really eerie and haunting tune, and not only because of the guitar solos. The lyrics are some of the more unusual and sinister-feeling to come out of the Paisley Underground era.

Bassist Kendra Smith’s name may be familiar a one. She and guitarist David Roback (formerly of fantastic Rain Parade) would later form the band Opal after the Dream Syndicate’s demise. Smith would later be replaced in Opal by Hope Sandoval, and the band changed their name to Mazzy Star. Opal’s only studio album, Happy Nightmare Baby, is well-worth a listen. Smith’s voice is great. She sings the lead vocals on “Too Little, Too Late”.

When reading about the band, I always see the Velvet Underground influence being mentioned. The feedback and manic feeling might be behind the reasoning. Maybe it’s because everyone needs to mention it, but I really hate that comparison. It bores me to tears. While I’m sure it’s very flattering to be compared to Reed and co, the band remind me much more of Television and their intelligence and complexity or the way that Jonathan Richman sort of sing-tells his songs. Either way, this band was something really special. I suppose that’s why so many have gone back to reassess what they were.

This is one of those albums that I didn’t know if I would ever find used somewhere. I bought this baby brand new at the Exclusive Company in Milwaukee when it was re-issued in 2011. Turns out that the original pressings aren’t very difficult to come by. It’s a shame I didn’t put two minutes of research into this before purchasing, but as soon as I saw this album in the shop, I knew I had to have it.

The Exclusive in Milwaukee is a pretty nice little shop. I would always drag my unloved albums there to sell to buy an upgrade. Admittedly, there was a lot of shit in my collection, but thankfully I was willing to sell albums that were in high demand. The money I made off selling the unloved jokes allowed me to buy this. Not the most interesting of stories, but this is by no means the most interesting of records (music aside).

I’m always surprised that there aren’t more people obsessed with this band or this album. The Days of Wine and Roses fits in perfectly with the Paisley Underground while also succeeding in doing something entirely different. This is the magnum opus of The Dream Syndicate, but they have a body work work so worthy of the time and effort to listen to. If you haven’t listened to it yet, what the hell are you doing reading this? Get a move on.

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