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The Dream Syndicate / Steve Wynn 

Days of Wine and Roses (Rhino) / Here Come the Miracles (Blue Rose)

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One of the highest expressions of new wave is the first full-length album by the Dream Syndicate, a Los Angeles band that flashed across the rock firmament from 1981 to 1984, only to sputter on until its 1989 breakup. Rhino's reissue of its 1982 benchmark, Days of Wine and Roses, proves how powerful singer-guitarist Steve Wynn's key band was, with tracks like the relentless, sarcastic "Definitely Clean," the hypnotic "Halloween," and the bittersweet, agonized title tune. The Velvet Underground is the key influence (others are Dylan and the Rolling Stones), but the rhythm and drive of the Syndicate were special, packing epigrammatic punk thrust in open-ended, mantra-like frameworks. The only dog is "Until Lately," which is simply fey.

Here Come the Miracles, Wynn's latest solo effort, is more self-conscious, ambitious, and, perhaps, important than the Dream Syndicate reissue (we're still awaiting the rerelease of the other great Syndicate opus, 1984's The Medicine Show). Miracles is an amazing, visionary double CD, a voyage through the psychic topography of contemporary Los Angeles that taps into and expresses deep fears as well as hopes for redemption. The cuts span the yearning "Sustain," a Southern California track that puts Wynn in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Dylan, the swampy "Topanga Canyon Freaks," and the hardest rocker of all, the richly bilious "Watch Your Step." Recorded with veterans of Green on Red and Giant Sand and Wynn's longtime drum companion, Linda Pitmon, Miracles tracks one man's ascent from despair to salvation. Wynn plays lacerating yet melodic guitar and sitar, sings from (and with) the heart of darkness, and makes rock and roll that still matters. "The more I see, the less I think I want to see/ Which only makes me dare to see/More than I really should," he writes in "Sustain." Praise be: Breaking on through to the other side is still in fashion.

More by Carlo Wolff

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