Pressing Concerns: The Dream Syndicate, Kids on a Crime Spree, Prize Horse, Reptaliens

The second edition of Pressing Concerns of the new year highlights a large-scale reissue from The Dream Syndicate, new albums from Kids on a Crime Spree and Reptaliens, and the debut EP from Prize Horse. It’s a good year (musically, at least) already!

If you’re looking for more new music, you can browse previous editions of Pressing Concerns or visit the site directory.

The Dream Syndicate – What Can I Say? No Regrets…Out of the Grey + Live, Demos, & Outtakes

Release date: January 14th
Record label: Fire
Genre: Alternative rock, psychedelic rock
Formats: CD, digital
Pull track: Slide Away

I’ve always respected The Dream Syndicate more than actively enjoyed them. I’m well aware of how important they are to several of my favorite bands, from Eleventh Dream Day to Silkworm to the one after which this website is named, sure. I’ve heard their consensus best record, The Days of Wine and Roses—the one that’s key to about a half-dozen subgenres of indie- and alt-rock—and I like it just fine, and their first “reunion” record, 2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here? is a very good album in its own right. As impressive as those two albums are, Out of the Grey is the Dream Syndicate record that’s hit me the hardest thus far, and is the closest to what I’ve imagined this band to be.

Originally released in 1986, Out of the Grey was the first Dream Syndicate record not to feature key members Kendra Smith and Karl Precoda, which is a big deal to some people from what I understand. I can certainly hear a difference between it and The Days of Wine and Roses—the latter album splits the difference between dreamy psychedelia and speedy desert rock and roll. Out of the Grey zeroes in on the latter, and instead of ping-ponging, finds a wide range within it to explore. The “rockers” no longer sound hurried and frantic; on the converse, The Dream Syndicate come off like a band with all the time in the world. Songs like the opening title track, “Boston”, and “Blood Money” all find the band hitting on something and just riding it for as long as they deem it necessary, which is generally the exact right amount.

The Dream Syndicate (at this point, the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Steve Wynn, guitarist Paul Cutler, bassist Mark Walton, and drummer Dennis Duck, all of which except Cutler are still in the band today) find time in Out of the Grey to put together some of the sharpest pop songs I’ve heard from the band; namely the giddy chord changes of “Slide Away” and the borderline-inappropriate bouncy sing-along melody of “Drinking Problem”. They still rocked, of course—even though you can actually dance to “Dancing Blind”, they see no need to minimize the blistering lead guitar in order to further this achievement. And the catharsis of closing track “Let It Rain” takes awhile to fully develop, but when it’s there, it’s unmistakable. One of the previously-released bonus tracks What Can I Say? No Regrets… offers up is a sharp, stomping version of “Cinnamon Girl”, which should be an “a-ha” moment if you hadn’t gotten there already.

On the heels of a long-overdue vinyl reissue of the original record last year, Fire Records has produced two discs’ worth of previously-unreleased bonus material to enhance the CD release of What Can I Say? No Regrets…. While I imagine someone who’s been a bigger fan of The Dream Syndicate would get more out of these extras, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the 1985 live set that comprises the second CD. The production and recording choices of Out of the Grey don’t bother me at all, but if your problem with the record is it’s not loud and jammy enough for you, head straight to the Live at Scorgies, NY section. The covers and demos of the third disc do little for me, true, but two different looks at one great collection of songs is more than enough for me to cosign What Can I Say? No Regrets…. (Bandcamp link)

Kids on a Crime Spree – Fall in Love Not in Line

Release date: January 21st
Record label: Slumberland
Genre: Noise pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette, digital
Pull track: When Can I See You Again?

Bay Area noise pop trio Kids on a Crime Spree have been kicking around for a decade or so, but it took until 2022 for a full-length record of theirs to emerge. Fall in Love Not in Line’s 25 minutes are an eternity in comparison to the rest of the band’s releases, the most substantial of which was previously 2011’s We Love You So Bad EP. They did release a few singles in the intermittent time period, though, and it doesn’t take long for Fall in Love Not in Line to remind the listener of the power of a single song. The record’s first two tracks are fuzzy power pop excellence from singer-songwriter Mario Hernandez, the chiming “Karl Kardel Building” wringing a hell of a lot out of an instrumental riff and the brisk “When Can I See You Again?” balancing Hernandez’s delicate vocals and lyrics pleasingly with the tuneful squall of the band.

Kids on a Crime Spree could’ve stopped there and added another no-fat single to their discography, but they dig a bit deeper on the rest of Fall in Love Not in Line and uncover more to enhance their repertoire. This includes a few reverb-y pop songs that rival the openers in the anxious undertones of “All Things Fade” and bouncy stomp of “Goods Get Got”, and it also features a couple of sonic expansions. “Vital Points” dials the distortion down just enough to let its 60s-cool melody shine a little brighter, and if “Overtaken by the Soil” is at times, ah, overtaken by noisiness, it isn’t enough to overwhelm the handclaps and stop-start guitar riff that put the track over the top. Whatever form these songs take, they all benefit from Hernandez’s hooky writing, as well as the ability of Hernandez and bandmates Becky Barron and Bill Evans to wring melody out of noisy sonic terrain. (Bandcamp link)

Prize Horse – Welder

Release date: January 19th
Record label: New Morality Zine
Genre: The heavy shoegaze/grunge/emo/post-hardcore spectrum
Formats: Vinyl, digital
Pull track: 3 Tiles

Welder may be the debut release from Minneapolis’ Prize Horse, but the trio have been playing together for several years now. The six-song EP was produced by Corey Coffmon of nü-shoegazers Gleemer and released through New Morality Zine, a reliable source for punk and heavy rock music as of late—if you’re familiar with either of those touchstones, you can probably guess approximately what Welder sounds like. That doesn’t make at any less strong of a debut release, though. Guitarist/vocalist Jake Beitel, bassist Liv Johnson, and drummer Jon Brenner play a blown-out brand of alt-rock that suggests they’ve spent several hours with classic space rock opuses like Fantastic Planet and Downward Is Heavenward, and Beitel’s unshakable monotone vocals are very 1990s as well.

While Beitel is too high in the mix for Prize Horse to come off as a straight shoegaze band, Welder certainly sound like they’re playing with a firmly-fixed downcast expression. Songs like “Emeryth” and the title track do get loud, but only in the service of creating dark, chilly listening experiences. Beitel’s downtuned guitar rakes across both these and the more traditionally “rocking” songs like “Far” and “Musket”, and the rhythm section (particularly Johnson’s concrete-solid bass playing) anchors these tracks in a workmanlike way, not unlike the profession to which the EP’s title alludes. It’s all very no-frills, but through sheer commitment Welder is able to suck you in completely in spite of—or maybe perhaps because of?—that. (Bandcamp link)

Reptaliens – Multiverse

Release date: January 21st
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre: Indie pop, psych pop, dream pop
Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital
Pull track: I Feel Fine

Here we have a band that’s on the complete opposite end of the “space rock” spectrum from Prize Horse. Portland, Oregon’s Reptaliens have made a name for themselves over the past half-decade with their casually futuristic lounge-pop, and with their third record, they’ve put together a strong collection of songs by exploring deviations from this sound. Multiverse follows a reverse indie rock band trajectory, embracing guitars and reducing the synths in something of a insular turn by the band’s core duo of Cole and Bambi Browning. Reptaliens are good enough at churning out subtle, airy pop music with any toolset that Multiverse isn’t a jarring listen—still, the steady downstroked electric guitar and shuffling drumbeat that announce album opener “I Feel Fine” are, if nothing else, rather exciting.

Songs like “In Your Backyard” and “Take It” take the six-string clarity of “I Feel Fine” and crank up the reverb for some confident dream pop moments, and the latter even flirts with a feedback jam as it draws to a close. The distortion in “Do You Know Are Sleeping?” isn’t restricted to the last moment—it’s a formative part of the song. Bambi’s vocals don’t sound shaken by the music, retaining their half-to-herself sung-spoken melodies in all of Multiverse’s ten tracks. More than anything, it’s her voice that provides the throughline, performing much the same role in the brisk power pop of “Don’t Wait for Me” at the center of the record as in closing track “Jump”, which is effectively made out of another drum shuffle and some positively groovy guitar leads. It all hangs together, it feels natural, but most importantly it’s a fun listen. (Bandcamp link)

Also notable:

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