Monday, November 29, 2010 at 6:49 p.m.
Artist: Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3
Title: Northern Aggression
Release date: November 30
Label: Yep Roc
Sorry I ever doubted you, Steve. Like a lot of folks, I sure did love the first couple of Dream Syndicate records, especially the iconic Days of Wine and Roses, a record that may have summed up American indie rock (of course, it wasn't called that back then) in the early 1980s better than any other.
But I all but ignored your career as you graduated from desperate underground rocker to professional musician. And even though I'm not getting any younger, either, I often make the terrible mistake of forgetting about the old-timers of rock -- possibly because you guys are so hit-and-miss. There are just as many rockers who lose their touch as there are who either successfully reinvent themselves or just keep doing what they do best -- write great songs.
Wynn doesn't really have to reinvent himself because he was never much a public figure to begin with -- even The Days of Wine and Roses is known mostly to music snobs and record-collector geeks. That's allowed him to maintain the cult following he surely has and make music on his terms, without having to bow to industry pressure and songwriting and production trends.
And we're lucky for that, because Northern Aggression is actually really, really good. I dare say that fans who last heard Wynn on Days in 1982, when he was essentially an amateur punk striving for something more than three chords and a cloud of dust, wouldn't be disappointed with Northern Aggression. The early Dream Syndicate's rough edges certainly are smoothed out, but the jagged energy and the jaundiced worldview ("I've been swatting at the flies around my skull / Till I realized they were trying to talk to me") are still there, even nearly 30 years later. Again, maybe it's because Wynn (still not accomplished, at least in conventional terms, as a singer) never had a hit. He's still a fringe musician who's working for a living.
Best song: "Resolution," the opening track, is a 6-minute, menacing quasi-psychedelic, droning rocker, with a squall of feedback. One of my fave songs of the year.
Deja Vu: The record that Frank Black wishes he could've made. (Though I generally liked Black's record from 2010, Wynn one-ups him in terms of potency and hooks.)
I'd rather listen to: The Days of Wine and Roses, on the short list of my favorite records of all time.
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here. The "Nothing Not New" Archives:
October 27 -- The 88: The 88 (B)
October 26 -- Warpaint: The Fool (B+)
September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)