The Dream Syndicate - How Did I Find Myself Here? Album Review
The Dream Syndicate, a classic example of a critically acclaim yet commercially unsuccessful band, has released their fifth studio album and their first since the band’s breakup in 1989. An alt-rock band from L.A., The Dream Syndicate are known for their psychedelic sound and passionate vocals. This album is very similar to the band’s previous efforts, which is impressive considering the time between How Did I Find Myself Here? and the band’s last effort.
Staying true to their original sound, the band manages to give a refreshing album that is reminiscent of the alternative sound of the 90’s and 2000’s, which is interesting since that is when the band had its period of inactivity. The Dream Syndicate manages to combine psychedelic rock, alt-rock and even some punk into a unique album, which also features a song by the band’s original vocalist Kendra Smith.
The album’s main sound is very reminiscent of Blur’s The Great Escape or Pulp’s Disco 2000. The melody usually has an overdrive filter over both the rhythm and lead guitar, leading to an upbeat, trippy sound which sounds both heavenly and psychedelic. The other sound heard frequently on the album is a more distorted, punk sound with the guitar riffs being a little harder than the other light alt songs on the album. Parts of the album sound like a euphoric dream, while others sound like angst, rage or even a country ballad.
The album sounds like the soundtrack to a 90’s movie about someone growing up and going on some sort of journey. There are also themes of romance, especially with the first track on the album “Filter Me Through You.” The songs each have a different theme, but they feel like they link together, even if somewhat loosely.
The album’s main stumbling block is how the vocals and instrumental tend to blend together, which is more of a complaint about the audio mixing. The first song “Filter Me Through You” works very well with the next song “Glide” as both are very emotional with the first being about the singer trying to convince someone to love them. “If I can’t have you or anything that reminds me of you, I’ll carry on, so you might miss me when I’m gone,” is the singer trying to convince someone that they might have feelings of them - which he does - but tries to play it off like he does not. “Glide” seems like the ideal sequel to this, with its upbeat and joyous lyrics, “I’m flying higher, so I might touch the clouds, I just glide.” “80 West,” while unlike the other tracks on the album with a more punk vibe, darker sound, heavy guitar riffs and loud bassline, is a ballad about the singer trying to avoid either an accident or the cops as they head west on Pennsylvania Highway 80. “Something happened on 80 West, I can’t figure it out,” which also goes with the vibe of somewhat connected songs. The titular song on the album is a funky, jazzy piece, but does not really connect to the other tracks except it feels like the most psychedelic song on the album. “Kendra’s Dream” is the most similar to the band’s original psychedelic sound, but again suffers from audio mixing issues.
How Did I Find Myself Here? faces its major stumbling block with its audio mixing, which hurts a promising album with some decent songs. However, the sometimes hard to hear lyrics and the random genre changes between songs hurt the album as an alt-rock album. There is nothing wrong with being experimental, but the majority of the songs need to mesh well together. Alt-rock is evolving, but without distinct vocals, the album can be a struggle to listen to, especially for the vocal content. Hopefully The Dream Syndicate’s next release sounds like the first three songs from this album.
Owen Paiva is a freshman majoring in Film-Video. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.