Steve Wynn Static Transmission (w/ the Miracle 3)

[DBK Works; 2003]

Styles: indie rock, paisley underground
Others: Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, Green Pajamas/Jeff Kelly

Steve Wynn’s post-Dream Syndicate career has always been somewhat schizophrenic; he’s released pop-oriented, singer-songwriter albums (Kerosene Man) alongside gritty, stripped-down ones (Melting in the Dark, 2001’s Here Come the Miracles). To my mind, Wynn is at his best combining these two sides, which he does to good effect on his latest, Static Transmission. This combination doesn’t produce a forced eclecticism, but rather a strong and immediate album built on minor, but rich, variations.

That said, the best song on the album, “Amphetamine,” is pretty one-sided, a ferocious driving song featuring a two-guitar attack worthy of, if not (sacrilege!) surpassing, Television. Still, “Amphetamine’s” punch is increased because it differs so much from the other songs, rather than blending into them. There are a number of striking musical touches, such as the funky clavinet on “Hollywood,” the swirling, almost psychedelic guitars on “Candy Machine,” and the enormously well-integrated strings on “Maybe Tomorrow.” The album opener, “What Comes After,” is a surprisingly tender piano-driven ballad, and “California Style” features what is indeed a California-style hook, and a fun breakdown whose lyrics focus, oddly enough, on New York.

Of course, Wynn’s lyrics have always been an entertaining part of his music, and the wordplay and snappy putdowns are in full effect here. Witness this couplet from the otherwise drab "Keep It Clean”: “I’m not the man that you once knew / But I can do an imitation if you want me to.” On the record’s closer, “A Fond Farewell,” Wynn sings the tagline with a Dylanesque cadence: “When all is said and done there’s not a whole lot more you want to tell / So I wish you a fond farewell.” But fans of Wynn’s dark humor and biting guitars won’t want to say goodbye, as long as he keeps producing albums like this.

(Static Transmission comes with a bonus disc featuring seven Wynn originals and a Springsteen cover. The songs are worthwhile, but if you’re on the fence, they probably shouldn’t push you into buying the album.)

1. What Comes After
2. Candy Machine
3. The Ambassador of Soul
4. Keep It Clean
5. Amphetamine
6. California Style
7. One Less Shining Star
8. Maybe Tomorrow
9. Hollywood
10. Charcoal Sunset
11. A Fond Farewell

Bonus Disc:

1. Riverside
2. Nothing Like Anything
3. Underneath the Underground
4. Timing
5. Survival Blues
6. Again
7. State Trooper
8. Benediction

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