Steve Wynn

What I Did After My Band Broke Up: The Best of Steve Wynn/Visitation Rights

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Following the breakup of the Dream Syndicate in 1989, Steve Wynn carved out a pretty impressive career as a singer/songwriter. What I Did After My Band Broke Up is a 17-track document of just what the title promises: songs from the eight albums Wynn made between 1990-2004 for a variety of labels and with mostly positive results. When he began recording solo it seemed like he was trying very hard to distance himself from his noisy past. The songs taken from the first couple of albums -- "Tears Won't Help," "Carolyn," and "Conspiracy of the Heart" from 1990's Kerosene Man; "Drag" from 1991's Dazzling Display; and "Carelessly" and "Collision Course" from 1994's Fluorescent -- are by no means weak (indeed, "Carolyn" is one of the great lost singles of the early '90s), but they seem to be lacking something. What they were lacking comes into focus on the songs ("Shelley's Blues, Vol. 2," "Why") from 1996's Melting in the Dark -- and the missing ingredients are loud, ugly guitars and a sense of danger. Indie rockers Come provide the backing, and they inspire Wynn to reclaim his fiery past; his vocals have the good old sneer that had been put on the shelf when the DS split. His albums since then haven't been as nasty, but the experience boosted Wynn to a new level of passion and excitement in his writing, and his musicians have responded in kind. Songs from 1999's My Midnight ("Nothing But the Shell," "Cats and Dogs," and the transcendent "500 Girl Mornings"), 2001's Here Come the Miracles ("Death Valley Rain," "There Will Come a Day"), and 2003's Static Transmission ("Amphetamine," "What Comes After") are as full of fire as anything from the prime of the Dream Syndicate, but are also the work of a more mature and developed writer. More importantly, they kick some serious backside. The collection is far from perfect; as with any collection like this, you can argue over songs included and songs left off -- and more importantly, the disc would have been better served by a chronological approach. That way you could trace the changes in Wynn's style and experience that jolt when the guitars kicked back in. It is also somewhat jarring to hear his raw later-period work next to his glossy early songs. Still, What I Did After My Band Broke Up is packed with great songs and performances; Wynn has nothing to be ashamed of as a solo artist. Even if he had never been in the Dream Syndicate, he would still be an important artist, one who anyone who likes their guitar rock literate, loud, and dangerous needs to know. The album also comes with a bonus disc of Wynn performing some of his favorite songs with just piano (courtesy of Chris Cacavas) for backing. It is an interesting exercise, but doesn't make for a truly compelling listen. Cacavas is a fine player and Wynn is in good voice, but you definitely miss the guitars. Longtime Wynn fans shouldn't pass up the chance to hear it at least once, though.

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