This latest track from paisley-draped LA veteran voyagers Dream Syndicate may only be only 4-minutes-and-39 seconds long but it feels like a 9-minute epic. It searches and glides, dips and weaves, menaces and hovers over a twilight metropolis of alluring imagery. The song is packed with a stunning array of ideas and yet somehow comes across as measured and focused, detached even, laying back in the cut and allowing the dark sweep of its evoked nighttime landscape do its thing. It’s a stunner from the very first synth burble to the final six string downstroke. I’ve listened to it nine times straight and it changes with each spin. This isn’t a song, it’s an unfolding obsession.
The whole slithery mess kicks off with a succession of dinky keys that sound exposed and impotent on their own, but as the drums rumble in and the sweep of the track takes off they quickly become the centerpiece pinning the whole operation into place, rendered ominous when framed within the minor chord backdrop, keystrokes down an alluringly doomed path. Within seconds the drums and bass are locked into a slow role interplay that would do J.J. Cale or The Dead justice, but the goth-tinged cry-of-pain guitar screams keep the song from veering into jam band territory, planting a black boot firmly in the Great Other that romantic outriders like Steve Kilbey and Ian McCulloch have been toiling in for decades.
Seemingly random bits of obscure imagery make up the verses, bringing the William S. Burroughs “cut up” technique to mind, like the feeling of waking from a dream and trying hard to remember what it was but only disjointed shards remain.
“A weathered eye with a ticking heart”
“Sucker punched the misery truck”
“Synergy lethargy, fantasies, broken needles and dead batteries”
The Dream Syndicate are wise enough to know that without a chorus to anchor this beast it would be nothing more than a stream of consciousness mirage, a pleasant mid-album breather perhaps but certainly not the first single. Suitably, the chorus they throw in here doesn’t differ significantly from the cadence of the verses, but they amplify it ever so slightly, adding in background “ahhh ahhhhs” and letting the guitar screech just a tone louder, the rolling beat staying anchored. “It’s funny the things you see, when you click on, the black light, exposed against the night, the colors flip and reunite, and that’s the lure, of the black light.”
We all know that the image of the “black light” has long been a rock cliche, from the Jimmy Page posters of the ’70s to that horrible Rilo Kiley track that basically stuck a fork in that band, but here the Syndicate really goes hard on the theme, treating it not like some ’70s nostalgia wink-wink but as a metaphor for the alternate realms and realities just beneath the surface of our every day life.
If the rest of the tracks on the upcoming Dream Syndicate album, These Times, set to drop May 3rd, are as swirling and doomy and full of shamanist bliss as this one, then we’re in for one hell of a great ride.