Dream Syndicate Credit: Chris Sikich

My natural skepticism rose when I heard about How Did I Find Myself Here? (Anti), the first new Dream Syndicate album in 30 years. While the band’s 1982 Velvets-infused debut The Days of Wine and Roses remains one of my all-time favorites, the albums made in its wake, as original members Kendra Smith and Karl Precoda left, delivered diminishing returns until the group disbanded in the late 80s. Leader Steve Wynn went on to pursue a solid if unspectacular solo career, and Smith formed Opal with guitarist David Roback and released a couple of sublime solo albums in the early 90s before stepping away from music. It was a relief to discover that How Did I Find Myself Here?—made with original drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton (who replaced Smith), and second guitarist Jason Victor, who’s long provided a steady foil for Wynn in his solo efforts—doesn’t chase nostalgia. Even better, the music is worth listening to on its own terms. The record was coproduced by keyboardist Chris Cacavas, an old Paisley Underground cohort once in Green on Red, who also plays on a few songs. The album opens with a few tracks of middle-of-the-road hard rock, but as the record unfolds the guitar interplay between Wynn and Victor sparks some real heat, especially on the burner “Out of My Head,” where the singer expresses a desperate inability to cope with his surroundings and salves himself with either noise or drugs. A similar yearning for escape surfaces on “80 West,” a classic road song where Wynn describes losing it behind the wheel. The album concludes with “Kendra’s Dream,” which features the darkened vocals of unexpected guest Smith, who also cowrote the warm, woozy meditation with Wynn.   v