The Paisley Underground scene came out of Los Angeles in the early eighties. The main contenders were Rain Parade, True West, The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and The Dream Syndicate. To me The Dream Syndicate’s record is the least Psychedelic of all these bands. It’s actually more like a Post Punk album and the opening track Tell Me When it’s Over is closer to Television and a throwback to The Velvet Underground than swirling acid music. The influence of Neil Young bridges that gap between the late sixties and the late seventies.
Second track, Definitely Clean has more of a Gun Club beat. It’s interesting how bands you wouldn’t necessarily associate with each other at time of release, sound remarkably similar 30 years later – that’s called an era!
I hear Jonathan Richman on That’s What You Always Say – but that’s probably just the era again, Dennis Duck’s upbeat punchy drumming also defines the age.
On Then She Remembers, Kendra Smith’s simple bass gives way to Steve Wynn’s strumming chords and Karl Precoda’s edgier guitar – it’s the LA underground breaking out. I hear other influences too – The Sound, Magazine and even Joy Division.
Halloween’s mid tempo stroll follows some Television guitar patterns but unlike Television, The Dream Syndicate never submit to considered guitar solos – it’s more frantic, less measured.
Ironically, When You Smile sounds like the unhappiest song on the record, I can never quite get the gist of the lyric but I just know it’s not Disneyland. I catch the last line “It seems like the end of the world when you smile”.
Until Lately might be a Nirvana, Velvet Underground hybrid. I read somewhere 20 years ago that Kurt Cobain had been a fan of this record – each generation of musicians follows that tradition of building himself on his influences until he finds his own feet. This track builds into a visceral vocal outpouring and the guitars follow in feedback frenzy whilst a harmonica wails, but the drums and bass dance along like a family outing and that’s probably why the track works so well.
Too Little,Too Late has drunken slide and Kendra Smith singing rather melodically over a rather unnatural chord progression, perhaps made to sound odd by the slide guitar that follows the chords like a drunken man uncertainly following another drunken man down a dark street.
The title tack ends the record and it’s a high point. At 7.29 it’s across between Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues and Patti Smith’s Horses as Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club appear again – the sound of the era.
What you have here is a bunch of like minded music fans, ignoring trends, forming a band and playing a version of Rock ‘n’ Roll that they want to hear. So you end up with some firey passions and the love of the influences prevails. It makes you realize that Punk wanted energy not originality, passion not perfection and you have that in spades in this Post Punk album. Note to reader, The Paisley Undergound moniker doesn’t fit.