There's a friend of mine who swears that Steve Wynn ruined his hearing. He tells me that every time he's in a quiet room he can still hear the guitar solo from Halloween pulsating through his head. I tell my friend - that's fucking great, there are far worse things that could be spinning round your head. This record you have here isn't going to blow your hearing, it's not that kind of deal, but these songs will sound like they've always been playing inside your head.
What can I say about the Dream Syndicate, Steve's legendary band, that hasnââ¬â¢t already been said? You've heard them even if you haven't heard them. Their ghostly electricity still haunts the bones of so many records; you can hear that chainsaw Grateful-Dead-take-on-the-Velvet-Underground rhythm in countless fashionable rock bands, in their swagger and attitude, the way their amps hiss and spit back and forth, the cool sneer and snarl of their work. But that's history man, and the future is right here with us.
Steve's last album, 'Here Come The Miracles' was a massive, heaving, shifting behemoth of fuzzed-up grooves and scorching riffs and was quite rightly regarded as his best ever. Well, you know whatââ¬|'Static Transmission' is even better - a 'Sticky Fingers' to 'Miracles'' 'Exile' (except Steve's done it the right way round).
Utilising the same sand-blasted desert surroundings of Tucson and recording once again at Wavelab with Craig Schumacher (Giant Sand / Calexico), Steve's managed the almost impossible. Creating a truly different and startling piece of work from the same raw materials. He's bought his band, the Miracle 3 (trained and prepped after playing over a 100 wild shows in the last two years, aided and augmented by permanent auxiliary Miracle worker Chris Cacavas), back for a return bout,12 rounds of the heavyweight recording of the year.
And it's the stories that always draw me in, that blotch of darkness amidst the 12 strings and layered harmonies, the fraught, incessant struggles with the dark. Steve's songs catch their characters at a crisis point, strung out and wracked, in the middle of life's highway, about to choose, or not to. They share the same mental landscape with the fictions of Denis Johnson and Thom Jones. There's the Barry Gifford-esque tale of the woman just off the bus from South Dakota, trying to find her way amidst the car crash sonics of Candy Machine. The man in One Less Shining Star who alights off a private plane on some empty airfield in Argentina and quietly slips away into the darkness - a tale of disappearance propelled by a mean snarling beat, Linda Pitmon's propulsive palpitation producing drumbeat interlocking with Dave DeCastro's fluid bass and Chris Cacavas' stabbing organ over which Wynn and Jason Victor's guitars screech and fight like hawks in an empty sky. You want more? How about the beautiful bittersweet symphony of Maybe Tomorrow, a Wild Horses for the 21st Century or the late-nite sleazoid-neon-funk of Hollywood?
Each song displays a distinct sonic palette, from the jangle sunshine stream of California Style (which even makes me forget the drizzling darkness of the British winter outside) to the astonishing scream and bend power of Amphetamine - one of Steve's best ever songs, right up there with such classic as Days of Wine and Roses and Merritville, the narrative bringing to mind Hunter S. Thompson riding 101 on his Vincent Black Shadow at 130MPH with a head full of bad chemicals while the guitars riff and rise, jacked up and wild like chattering hyenas.
But words ultimately fail us all, mere dressing for this exquisite and frightening trip through the dark heart of the dream, tempered by a wary but powerful optimism and a bunch of skin prickling chord progressions. And man, I'm still spinning over the greatness of the closing couplet of A Fond Farewell which seems to say it all so well : "And as we fade into the ether we provide nourishment and fodder for the soil / To be replaced by big machines and derricks to dig deep down in search of oil" - which is then made into vinyl - you work it out
Here is what the press has said about
"Static Transmission" and the 2003 tour:
a.. "The ex-Dream Syndicate frontman's a veritable Ph.D. of timeless
rock songcraft, and his strong new record 'Static Transmission' is a
tuneful, intelligent collision of post-punk fury, stylishly measured
balladry and mature rock hook-smithing." - Chicago Tribune
a.. "...of his two latest records, 'Static Transmission' is perhaps
the more vital, a trip the 43-year-old rocker has never taken before. It's
at times contemplative, tender, vulnerable, even occasionally happy. ... [he
has] churned out some of the most piercing songs of his career, bonded by a
core theme of mortality. ...perhaps nothing on 'Static Transmission' is more
monumental than 'Amphetamine,' a six-and-a-half-minute runaway train and the
yin to the yang of the album's more pensive moments. ...Musically, the song
is as good as anything Wynn's ever recorded, an explosion of guitars and
rollicking rhythms..." - No Depression
a.. "Wynn sounds like a man reprieved; he never runs in place, and he
knows how to use pale feedback to supernatural effect. His stories of the
hopeful and the doomed are more like miniature novels..." - Chicago Reader
a.. "...his set was so blisteringly great..." - St. Louis
a.. "...leave it to 43-year-old Steve Wynn to bring the proverbial
heat, with two of the loudest, hardest, and most passionate sets of music in
Austin all week. In town since before the festival, the former Dream
Syndicate leader made a parade of appearances, but two of his final SXSW
slots-his official conference bow at the Cactus Café on Friday and a
Saturday evening set at Alejandro Escovedo's Taco X-Press gala-were nothing
short of incendiary. ...Wynn ripped though a perfect mix of solo and
Syndicate songs with a power and volume that threatened to come gleefully
unhinged throughout..." Seattle Weekly
a.. "Wynn is as terrific a performer as he is a songwriter, and right
in front of the stage is the best place to catch the feedback." - St. Louis
a.. "He has since perfected a dryly narrative approach that somehow
outpaces the Lou Reed comparisons to break through to its own discrete
creative space. Here, on the weary 'Maybe Tomorrow'... or in the
foot-to-the-floor escapism of 'Amphetamine,' Wynn proves that, far from
being spent, he remains a force to be reckoned with and cherished." - London
a.. "Wynn is still fusing Dylan with the Velvet Underground,
fashioning windswept vistas with lucid guitars and evocative,
mini-screenplay lyrics. ...'Static Transmission' pleasingly focuses Wynn's
talents in a profusion of euphoric chord progressions ('Maybe Tomorrow'),
amp-mangling sonics and intriguing narratives ('One Less Shining Star')." -
a.. "The latest outing from the former Dream Syndicate
vocalist-guitarist has an engaging mix of edgy power-pop ('Amphetamine,'
'Candy Machine') and dreamy ballads ('Maybe Tomorrow'). Some of its best
moments recall Lou Reed - like the melancholic, 'What Comes After' or
brooding rocker, 'The Ambassador Of Soul.'" - MOJO
a.. "'Static Transmission' is a balanced recording. It has a perfect
flow between thoughtful and playful; it works comfortably within its many
textures; it is a record of grace and agitation, energy and exhaustion,
serenity and quiet rage. It is a rarity in its completeness. It is a joy in
its spiritual quality. And it is a miracle of its own earnest sincerity." -
a.. "If you're looking for hype, don't look to Steve Wynn. He's taken
for granted because he's lived most of his life in Los Angeles and New York,
leaving him without the halo that surrounds some rumor from Obscure,
Oklahoma. All Wynn offers is an evening of intelligence and entertainment.
Plus free drinks, sex, drugs and gunplay. At least in his songs." - DIY
a.. "There's currently almost no live experience to top Steve Wynn &
The Miracle 3. There will be few records this year to top 'Static
Transmission.' In the same way as Lucinda Williams, Steve creates vital work
in his maturity. It's a mystery why he doesn't achieve a similar
recognition." - Bucketfull of Brains
The Daily Oklahoman, Friday, August 15, 2003, page 1D
Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3
Dream Syndicate founder Steve Wynn unleashes his 10th solo collection of
tales from the dark side, shaded with rawbone electric guitar and the same
great band that made his double-disc epic "Here Come the Miracles" an
instant keeper. The keyboards of Chris Cacavas (Green on Red, Giant Sand)
add extra texture to the chilling rock noire of "Keep It Clean" and
"Amphetamine," and even though I swear the chorus of "What Comes After" was
lifted directly from Moby Grape's "Seeing," it's still a beautiful
reflection on mortality. This is heavy literature with a backbeat to match.
"...an impressively consistent 2-CD set that ranks with his very best.
Rather than forge new ground, Wynn casts a wide-angle spotlight on his
considerable skills, from his tuneful, classically resonant songwriting to
his thoughtful arranging to his multifaceted guitar playing. ...'Here Come
the Miracles' proves that Wynn's a genuine rock renaissance man." - Chicago
"Songwriterly maturity merges with psychedelic power surges. But be warned: buy this record and prepare for an expensive outlay on Wynn's back catalogue."--London Times