Steve Wynn

Dazzling Display

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Steve Wynn's first solo album after dissolving the Dream Syndicate, 1990's Kerosene Man, found him exploring new ideas as a songwriter and bandleader, displaying a pop sensibility that would have been out of place in his old band. Wynn's follow-up, 1991's Dazzling Display, followed a similar path, with Joe Chiccarelli whipping up a similarly crisp but muscular production sound and many of the same musicians returning for these sessions, in particular guitarist Robert Mache, keyboardist Jim Lang, drummer Denny Fongheiser, and bassist Fernando Saunders. Wynn also had some extra help from R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, who appears on five tunes and helped Wynn write the title track. But Dazzling Display manages to sound bigger and more ambitious than Kerosene Man, with Wynn and Chiccarelli taking greater advantage of the possibilities of the studio, adding strings and horns on several tracks, and the instrumental firepower gets a boost on these sessions. At the same time, there's a nervous edginess to Dazzling Display that was not as noticeable on Kerosene Man; the music has a different sort of bite, and though "Close Your Eyes" and "Tuesday" sound like hit singles (and the latter actually was one in Norway and Italy), most of these songs are sharper and less immediately forgiving than what Wynn had written the previous year. Many of these songs hark back to the tales of lost souls that dominated the Dream Syndicate's Medicine Show; it's certainly fitting that Hubert Selby, Jr. and James Ellroy have songs dedicated to them on this album, and the atmospheric English-language reworking of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde" (with Johnette Napolitano sitting in for Brigitte Bardot) fits with the other selections like a glove. Dazzling Display found Steve Wynn thematically drawn between light and dark, hardly for the first (or last) time in his career, but he rarely gave both sides as fair a hearing as he did here.

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