Judging by the new songs the Dream Syndicate previewed at the Music Machine last weekend, it sounds as if leader Steve Wynn has been listening to a lot of country music.
Material like "The Side I'll Never Show" and "Loving the Sinner, Hating the Sin" tap the direct, personal power found in the best country songs. And with his three band mates (augmented at times by Green on Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas) playing with the momentum of Seattle Slew at full gallop, Saturday's show was as forceful as Neil Young & Crazy Horse (whose "Cinnamon Girl" served as the set's closer) at their peak.
Older Dream Syndicate numbers, too, were given entirely new life, particularly the harrowing death-in-the-desert tale "Merritville" and a wicked version of "John Coltrane Stereo Blues," with guitarist Paul B. Cutler using everything from a crumpled piece of newspaper to kitchen utensils to create an array of sound effects. After six years as a leading but inconsistent entry on the local scene, the Dream Syndicate has firmly taken its place among the L.A. elite with the likes of Firehose, X and Los Lobos.