Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Dream Syndicate • Medicine Show

Did Sandy Pearlman ruin rock 'n' roll? It depends... Is Give 'Em Enough Rope your favorite Clash album? Is Medicine Show your favorite Dream Syndicate record? If your answer to the last two questions is a resolute "No," then the answer to the first question is the sum of the answers to the last two: Yes, Sandy Pearlman ruined rock.

The good people at Water have reissued Steve Wynn's seminal rock band's second LP, and have done a fine job with it. Nice package, good mastering, and the This Is Not the New Dream Syndicate Album... Live! EP plus a bonus live song added on for good measure. Some of Wynn's best songs are here: "John Coltrane Stereo Blues" being one, "Still Holding On to You," and the title track. Trouble is, Sandy Pearlman made the freakin' snare drum so gated and loud, you'd think someone with a gatling gun stuck on extra-slow was firing away in the studio next door. Man, that snare is loud. Now, of course, the early '80s were like that... every album from that era has this, and they all suffer these two and a half decades later. So you gotta deal with it. (The four songs on the live EP from Show don't suffer the snare fatigue, though, so dig in!) Thing is, while Give 'Em Enough Rope was nowhere near as good as the albums that preceded and proceded it, Medicine Show is really good. Great songs (let's not forget "Merrittville") and great playing from Wynn & Co. (Karl Precoda, Dennis Duck, Dave Provost) make it worthwhile. It's not the indie sensation that their first LP was (The Days of Wine and Roses, originally released on Slash), because it's a lot bigger than that. And the '80s was all about big.
3/5 (Water)

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