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The Dream Syndicate
Dream Syndicate are at the foundation (alongside the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and R.E.M.) of contemporary alternative music simply because at the time when most bands were experimenting with new technology, the Syndicate deigned to bring back the guitar. Fronted by Steve Wynn (b. Feb. 21, 1960) and including Karl Precoda (guitar), Dennis Duck (drums), and Kendra Smith (bass), the band formed in Los Angeles after Smith and Wynn had relocated there from Davis, CA. They debuted with a self-titled, unbelievably Velvet Underground-like EP on Wynn's own Down There label. It was shortly off to Ruby/Slash for Days of Wine and Roses, the most lauded record on the college charts that year. The record has been cited as influential from artists as diverse as Kurt Cobain to the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson. Live, they had developed into an assaultive guitar band prone to jamming, which helped earn them the tag as leaders of L.A.'s paisley underground movement.
Released in 1984, Medicine Show was met with mixed response by the college crowd. By this time, Smith had left the band and was replaced by Dave Provost on bass and Tom Zvoncheck on keyboards. Wynn took his cues from Neil Young & Crazy Horse on the record rather than Lou Reed (who was considered a preferable source at the time), and the rootsier sound caused a backlash with the fan base. As the band label-hopped, a new lineup and falling morale spawned Out of the Grey (Big Time) in 1986 and the Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories (Enigma) in 1988. The band had realigned to include Mark Walton on bass and Paul B. Cutler on guitar. They recorded Live at Raji's in 1989 as their swan song.
Wynn has since recorded albums as a leader and with Gutterball (featuring the House of Freaks and Silo Bob Rupe) and is continuously collaborating with other musicians. His 1996 solo record had him backed by the Boston band Come. Smith went on to work in Opal with David Roback, a prototype version of his Mazzy Star, and has since recorded solo albums as well. After a long hiatus from music, Karl Precoda reappeared in 1997 fronting the Last Days of May, a neo-psychedelic instrumental trio. Duck continued to work with Wynn as a touring drummer and bassist Mark Walton played with the Continental Drifters. A documentary of Dream Syndicate's last tour, Weathered and Torn, has been released on DVD. ~ Denise Sullivan