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The Dream Syndicate | The Universe Inside

Steve Wynn and co. are making up for lost time. In more ways than one.

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THE PRESS RELEASE: “When The Dream Syndicate emerged in the early ’80s, front man Steve Wynn declared, “We’re playing music we want to hear because nobody else is doing it.” He added, “I’ll compromise on what I eat or where I sleep, but I won’t compromise on what music I play.” Both were true, and although their template of Velvet Underground meets Crazy Horse may seem commonplace today (and let’s not forget, the Syndicate spawned many imitators), their raw twin guitar, bass and drums approach was not common during an era when slick, polished MTV bands ruled. That uncompromising ‘tude continues on the band’s seventh album, The Universe Inside. After 23 years, they remerged in 2012 with a slight change in lineup — guitarist Jason Victor replaced Paul B. Cutler — and after a blaze of touring, they recorded their first album in decades, How Did I Find Myself Here? The album was surprisingly fresh (the addition of former Green On Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas provided lush textures previously unknown in their guitar-based music) and more surprising was a vocal cameo from co-founding member, the long-lost chanteuse Kendra Smith. More touring (joined by now official member Cacavas) was followed quickly by another album — These Times — which refined the sonic landscapes explored on How Did I Find Myself Here? This band is not regurgitating old albums and previous glories, but developing with the same urgency that a pack of youngsters would.”

MY TWO CENTS: Steve Wynn and The Dream Syndicate are making up for lost time. In more ways than one. The Universe Inside is not only the reconstituted Paisley Underground icons’ latest album since returning to active duty in 2012 — it’s also their third full-length release in four years. More to the point, it’s an hour-long album that finds the creatively restless Wynn continuing to push sonic, stylistic and songwriting bounds. Look no further than the mindblowing opener The Regulator, a sprawling 20-minute excursion that fearlessly and seamlessly mind-melds a Krautrock groove with electric sitar, jazzy guitar work, a smoky sax and a rusty, oddball spoken-word vocal midway between Tom Waits and Stan Ridgway. Where the hell do you go from there? Well, if you’re Wynn, the answer is one word: Deeper. The rest of the five-song set takes its cues from Regulator, with the band cutting loose and stretching out on a slate of trippy jams fashioned from mesmerizing backbeats, meandering melodies and plenty of knob-twiddling experimentation. Deftly balancing indie-rock, psychedelia, modern jazz and umpteen other influences, The Universe Inside is a world unto itself. Not to mention one helluva wild time.