The Dream Syndicate
Originally released in 1982, The Dream Syndicate's debut album firmly established them as one of the key players in California's Paisley Underground scene of the early eighties.
What is initially striking about the album, however, is how quintessentially New York it sounds. And while several LA bands of this era used the sounds of the 70s New York punk scene as a foundation, the interplay between Karl Precoda's guitar and Steve Wynn's vocals conjures less the sound of the endlessly emulated Ramones, and more that of bands like Television and early Modern Lovers. This is perhaps most evident in "Halloween," in which the wildly expressive guitar lines rise above the virtually monotone verses, injecting deadpan phrases of pessimism and doubt with a sense of unspoken possibility. This tension creates a kind of cacophony of conflicting moods reminiscent of both Patti Smith and John Cale-era Velvet Underground.
What sets the Dream Syndicate apart from their east coast forebearers, however, would have to be the looseness and fluidity through which they achieve this sound. While they certainly didn't possess the virtuosity of a duo like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, Precoda and Wynn attack the guitar from a more percussive, primitive standpoint; letting the natural unpredictability and crackle of their instruments breathe in a way which would prefigure much of the music to come in both the eighties and nineties.
As for reissue extras, this one is loaded. While the original album had only nine songs, this version has no less than 17 tracks. Plus, the liner notes include an excellent essay and an introduction from Steve Wynn himself. -John Norris
This record beautifully illustrates the nervous thoughts and questions that a first-time father might have about the impending birth of twins. A good example of this is the hair-raising line in "Stark White Stork Approaching" when lead singer Matt Pelham exclaims, "There's only so much room in a mother's womb!" It is appropriate, then, that the latest Features self-released CD is titled The Beginning.
My previous impression of the Features was that they were going for more of a new wave-type of sound. The Beginning is more of a parenthood short story told in Elephant 6-style pop form. This record is only 15 minutes long, but it covers a lot of musical ground. Bouncy songs with horns and keyboards akin to those of the Olivia Tremor Control, plucky guitar lines, and "la-la-las" flow into sincere garage rock. This makes The Beginning a kind of catchy and compulsive listen.
In the press release, they are quoted as saying that that they're "holding back" recent material for a potential upcoming release because they're shopping around for a new label. Let's hope that someone fair and decent picks them up. No label is going to attempt to wrangle a typical sound out of the Features.
The Features are playing at High on Rose on Saturday, February 16th with Glossary (another band out of Tennessee) and de Janeiro (local members of Massey Ferguson and Tim). -Claire Buxton