I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the legendary and influential Los Angeles-based psych rock act and JOVM mainstays The Dream Syndicate. Now, as you may recall, the band, which originally formed way back in the early 80s — currently featuring founding members Steve Wynn (guitars, vocals), a critically applauded singer/songwriter and solo artist in his own right, and Dennis Duck (drums), along with Mark Walton (bass), Jason Victor (lead guitar) and Green On Red’s Chris Cacavas (keys) —has managed to split up and reunite a few times throughout their extensive history, including their most recent one in 2017.
Since 2017, The Dream Syndicate have released a run critically applauded albums that have seen the acclaimed psych outfit at their most uncompromising — while boldly pushing their sound in radically new directions.
2020’s The Universe Inside marked the first time in their long and storied history in which every song was conceived and written as a collective whole. Sonically, the album’s material was unlike anything they’ve done together or even individually. The material draws from each individual member’s eclectic interests and passions — in particular:
- Dennis Duck’s love and knowledge of European avant garde music
- Jason Victor’s love of 70s prog rock
- Mark Walton’s experience in Southern-fried music collectives
- Chris Cacavas’ interest in sound manipulation
- Wynn’s love of 70s jazz fusion.
The Universe Inside‘s six songs came from one completely improvised recording session in which the band came up with 80 continuous minutes of soundscapes. “All we added was air,” Wynn explains in press notes. Aside from vocals, horns and a touch of percussion here and there, every instrument is recorded live as it happened.
The Dream Syndicate’s fourth post-reunion effort and eighth overall, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns and True Confessions is slated for a June 10, 2022 release through Fire Records. Continuing to push their sound and approach in new and varied directions, Ultraviolet Battle Hymns reportedly sees the band adding British glam, German prog rock, krautrock and Brian Eno-like ambient music interwoven into their psychedelic, melodic hues. The album also features guest spots from longtime collaborator and friend, The Long Ryders‘ Stephen McCarthy and Marcus Tenney, who contributes sax and trumpet to the album’s songs.
So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:
- “Where I’ll Stand,” the album’s expansive fist single, which begins with a twinkling, synth-led prog rock intro that nods at Trans Europe Express before morphing into a circular chord progression centered around twangy, reverb-drenched guitars and a slow-burning groove. “It feels like an attempt–via the lyrics and the circular chord progression–to impose some kind of order and logic on a world that was severely lacking in both respects at the time,” The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn explained in press notes.
- “Damian,” a brooding and slow-burning song that may arguably be their most AM Rock-inspired song of their extensive — and still growing — catalog: Centered around a shuffling groove, the song has a California beach sheen but with a gritty and lurking sense of evil and unease. Fleetwood Mac meets Steely Dan, perhaps?
The Emil Nikolaisen co-written “Every Time You Come Around” is a melodic and crafted bit of psych pop that feels like a subtle refinement of The Dream Syndicate’s classic era sound but paired with fuzzy, feedback laden guitars and achingly wistful lyrics. The new single has “a sense of arrogance and fragility in the lyrics which Jason [Victor] had the good sense to fully obliterate with a tsunami of fuzz guitar” the band’s Steve Wynn says.
The JOVM mainstays will be embarking on a lengthy international tour to support the album. The tour includes a September 17, 2022 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
11 Jun: Loaded Festival, Oslo, Norway
27 Jul: Soda Bar, San Diego, CA, US
28 Jul: Lodge Room, Los Angeles, CA, US
29 Jul: Harlow’s, Sacramento, CA, US
30 Jul: Cafe Du Nord, San Francisco, CA, US
15 Sep: City Winery, Philadelphia, PA, US
16 Sep: City Winery, Washington D.C., DC, US
17 Sep: Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, US
18 Sep: Crystal Ballroom, Boston, MA, US
07 Oct: Auditorio, Murcia, Spain
08 Oct: Loco Club, Valencia, Spain
10 Oct: Universidad, Cadiz, Spain
11 Oct: El Sol, Madrid, Spain
12 Oct: Sala BBK, Bilbao, Spain
14 Oct: SPAZIO 211, Rivoli, Italy
15 Oct: Locomotiv, Bologna, Italy
16 Oct: Magnolia, Milan, Italy
18 Oct: Lafayette, London, UK
19 Oct: Petit Bain, Paris, France
20 Oct: Het Depot, Leuven, Belgium
21 Oct: De Zwerver, Leffinge, Belgium
22 Oct: Ekko, Utrecht, Netherlands
10 Nov: Turf Club, Minneapolis, MN, US
11 Nov: Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL, US