Halloween (see below) adequately describes the sound of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene that was prevalent in the mid-80’s. A group of bands intent on playing a subset of jangle-pop that added a modern nuance while still ensuring that a melodic homage was paid to 60’s west coast psyche-folk / rock. To my mind it also had a similar aesthetic to the Dunedin sound that was making a similar impression from New Zealand.
In comparison to the prevalent bands of the movement such as Game Theory, Green on Red, ‘non Walk Like Egyptian‘ The Bangles, Three O’Clock and The Long Ryders who were content to follow the Halloween template, The Dream Syndicate usage of it was completely atypical as they seemed to be on a mission to push the parameters of the sound and revel in becoming the ‘enfant terribles’ of the movement.
Initially the sound, whilst still Paisley in melodic construct, was somehow dirtier and more brooding than the other bands. Backed by the sparsity and simplicity of the extremely minimalist bass guitar riffs and drumming as a foundation, the noisy, bludgeoning lead guitar work of Karl Pecoda’s would compete for attention with Steve Wynn’s rhythm guitar to such an extent that tracks such as the title track, Then She Remembers (see below) and Definitely Clean would usually explode out of the traps before finishing with even more energy, rather than being coerced around the track using pretty things as the incentive, like so many of the other bands in the movement preferred.
Then there was Wynn himself who was the archetypal pop culture villain who everyone loved to love. As snotty and moody with the press as he was in his songwriting, Wynn never bothered to try and hide the fact that he was in thrall of the vocal style of Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground and such a style only added to the strange allure that he had. He may not have been popular among those that placed an emphasis on matters as trivial as popularity, but to various sub-cultures on both sides of the pond he was a kind of pre-Morrissey, Morrissey figure…all pomp, circumstance and ridiculous thought provoking opinion which he issued with wanton abandon.
I have to admit I am something of a Steve Wynn fanboy and would probably buy a brussel sprout at an auction if I thought he had looked at some point in the 80’s and although he has produced some fine music in subsequent times, nothing has eclipsed the brilliance of this album…yet.