The Dream Syndicate’s frontman, Steve Wynn, is the first to admit that he’s not a big fan of reunion albums by legendary bands.
“As a general rule, I think they don’t work,” he said this week. “They’re either a pale imitation of what a band used to do, or they’re so far removed that it seems pointless. We tried to do the impossible, and as a music fan, I tried to steer us in the right direction.”
One of those rare reunion albums that does work, the band’s new “How Did I Find Myself Here?” can stand with the mind-expanding work from three decades ago.
Formed in 1981, the band was part of Los Angeles’ legendary Paisley Underground, a loose-knit group of bands (including the Bangles, the Long Ryders and Green on Red) inspired to different degrees by ’60s music.
In the Syndicate’s case, that meant a snarly punk-infused take on psychedelia, keyed to lengthy guitar jams and the dark character studies in Wynn’s lyrics.
The Dream Syndicate plays its first local show since 1988 at Once tonight. Another trailblazing guitar band will be represented as ex-Television member Richard Lloyd opens the show.
“You listen to (the Dream Syndicate’s debut album) ‘Days of Wine & Roses,’ and it’s this explosion of personal neuroses and angst-ridden doubt, which was probably pretty real for me when I was 21,” Wynn said. “The band was confrontational to a fault when we started out. In the ’80s, we felt like we didn’t really belong to anything, even the underground scene. So it seemed we spent a lot of time just trying to dare people; if you made it past the initiation you were part of our team. That’s probably different now, because the gauntlet’s long been thrown down.”
Founding drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton who joined midway through the ’80s run, and new guitarist Jason Victor from Wynn’s solo band are in the current lineup. Though Wynn has recorded dozens of songs while the band was apart, he said he had to put himself in the right mindset to write new Syndicate songs.
“The album is true to its title,” he said. “It’s kind of a progress report, an update. When you frame it in terms of us being a band that did this 35 years ago, there’s a certain sense of ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ And it’s funny how that came out as the unifying theme, so you can tell where my head was at. Before we originally broke up, I got into doing more of a storytelling, third-person, hard-boiled noir kind of thing. I didn’t want to hide behind that on this record.”
There won’t be another 30-year gap between albums, he said.
“The next one will be really soon. This is a functioning band now. We make records and play shows, and we’ll do more now that we’ve passed the audition.”
The Dream Syndicate, with the Richard Lloyd Group, at Once, 156 Highland Ave., Somerville, tonight. Tickets: $20-25; ticketfly.com....Read more