The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here?

I haven’t known what to think about this Dream Syndicate reunion. More to the point, I didn’t know how I felt about them calling it The Dream Syndicate. Granted, Steve Wynn could call anything The Dream Syndicate if he wanted to, I suppose. He could’ve called The Miracle 3 the new Dream Syndicate. Certainly other people from far more famous bands have made similar moves. And I might not’ve minded all that much, because the M3 were/are a much more dynamic, exciting band than the late ‘80s version of The Dream Syndicate. That lineup was okay, I saw them numerous times, but when people speak so reverentially about The Dream Syndicate, they’re talking about The Days of Wine and Roses, maybe Medicine Show. Nobody (that I know of) is clamoring for the band to play Out of the Grey and Ghost Stories start-to-finish.

But it’s basically that later version of The Dream Syndicate that is back together, with guitarist Jason Victor from The Miracle 3 taking over for the musically-retired Paul B. Cutler (original guitarist Karl Precoda went on to be a humanities professor at Virginia Tech, of all things). So, yeah, it’s an authentic reunion, as they go. But it’s one that I’ve found tough to get all that jazzed about. Trust me, I love Steve Wynn. I think he’s a consistently superb songwriter (perhaps the most underrated in rock, quite honestly), and I’ve been impressed with pretty much everything he’s done, in whatever configuration or collaboration he happens to be dabbling in at the moment. But a Dream Syndicate reunion minus Precoda or original bassist Kendra Smith just seemed somewhat unnecessary to me.

All it took was one spin of How Did I Find Myself Here? to enlighten my skeptical ass. Holy smokes, this thing is completely fan-fucking-tastic! At the very least, it’s the best album Wynn’s made since the M3’s Static Transmission in 2003. Now, I know many of you, regrettably, have never heard that album, so I’ll go further. This is (no exaggeration) the second-best Dream Syndicate album ever. It might even be the best. It’s definitely the most blazing thing Jason Victor’s put to tape. Crank up “Out of My Head,” or “80 West,” or “The Circle,” or anything on the whole album. That motherfucker just wails!!! My jaw dropped the first time I saw him play with The Miracle 3 some 15 years ago, and he’s only gotten more intense. Special note should be made of guest Chris Cacavas (Green on Red), whose keyboards add a cool undercurrent and counterbalance to the blistering bonfire of the electric guitars.

There are subtle nods, acknowledgements, salutes or whatever to the band’s first album. Maybe they’re intentional, maybe not. “Filter Me Through You” opens How Did I Find Myself Here? with a confident authority similar to how “Tell Me When It’s Over” launched Wine and Roses with such undeniable sureness. The beefy bass notes that propel “80 West” indisputably recall “That’s What You Always Say.” Throughout, the guitar squall matches and surpasses the raw jaggedness that immediately set The Dream Syndicate apart from their brethren in the so-called Paisley Underground movement of the West Coast in the early ‘80s. And Smith, bless her heart, co-wrote and sings “Kendra’s Dream,” the hallucinatory six-minute album closer that brings everything full circle.

But make no mistake – How Did I Find Myself Here? sounds very little like any previous Dream Syndicate album. It stands on its own, proudly, as if it’s the killer debut album from a brand new band. An amazing new band. They could play this album start-to-finish and nothing else at their upcoming show in Atlanta, and at the end of the night I would walk out the door of The EARL a happy man.

The Dream Syndicate
How Did I Find Myself Here?