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Published: 2010/07/26
by Ron Hart

The Dream Syndicate
Medicine Show


“John Coltrane Stereo Blues” by The Dream Syndicate is undoubtedly the best rock song to emerge from Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground, an early alternative rock movement of the early-to-mid-1980s that also spawned such acts as The Bangles, Rain Parade, Green on Red, The Long Ryders and The Three O’Clock. And now the album that housed it, 1984’s Medicine Show, finally gets the reissue treatment after spending years out of print in the wake of the shuttering of the its old label, A&M Records. Received with an equal amount of shock and anger by the Syndicate’s fanbase for eschewing the Velvet Underground-aping college rock jangle of their 1982 debut The Days of Wine and Roses in favor of a more roadhouse-ready AOR grit that provided an ample showcase for frontman Steve Wynn’s heavy Neil Young kick, evident on classic songs like “Burn,” “Bullet With My Name On it,” “Merritville” and, of course, “Coltrane”, which broke massive sonic ground by marrying the twangy dirge of Crazy Horse with the punkish angularity of Television.

This expanded edition of Medicine Show comes with the live EP This Is Not the New Dream Syndicate Album…Live, which was culled from a July 1984 Chicago show and features some pretty loose, killer concert versions of several key cuts from the LP, including a particularly rowdy version of the album’s title track and a fiery take on key cut “Armed With an Empty Gun”. When it was released, Medicine Show was reviled by many fans and critics as a big-budget sell-out following The Dream Syndicate’s signing to A&M and the employment of major label power player Sandy Pearlman (the guy behind Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” who was so hilariously portrayed by Christopher Walken for Saturday Night Live’s infamous “More Cowbell” skit) as the producer. However, 25 years later, the advent of time and taste has helped give this former lost album a new lease on life to be properly enjoyed as the bonafide rock classic it always was.

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