There are two reasons for anyone who loves music--especially indie and alternative rock--to get this album. First, it is a great album in its own right, featuring several truly great cuts and some wonderful guitar playing. Second, it is easily one of the most influential albums ever released. Alternative may have become popular with the release of Nirvana's NEVERMIND in 1991, but in fact there were a number of important releases that preceded it and that contributed to the sound that would become alternative. Nirvana only popularized alternative, it neither developed nor invented it. They were no pioneers, though they were a great band by any measure. Before Nirvana a number of musical sources went into the formation of alternative, from Neil Young's grungier outings to Television's MARQUEE MOON to Greg Sage's efforts with The Wipers and in the eighties with The Replacements, H?sker D?, R.E.M., and the Pixies. But few bands were more important to the development of the grunge guitar sound than was Steve Wynn's Dream Syndicate and no Dream Syndicate was more influential than THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES.
The fascinating thing about the album is that it sounds so familiar, but when you look at the albums that it sounds like, they all come after its release, while nothing that came before bears much resemblence to it. Little in rock is truly original, but this comes as close as one can get. One can hear a lot of Television in the album, especially the slower pace of the songs, but the guitar playing sounds far more like Neil Young than either Tom Verlaine or Richard Lloyd. Some compare it to the Velvet Underground, but I've never heard that as much as Television. Like Television, the Dream Syndicate is built around twin guitars, though an unequal partnership. Steve Wynn is so much more celebrated than the underrated Karl Precoda that many think he was the only guitarist.
For those coming to Dream Syndicate for the first time, I recommend two albums. THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (I've never been able to determine if the title was taken from Ernst Dowson's poem "Vitae Summa Brevis"-"They are not long, the days of wine and roses/Out of a misty dream/Our path emerges for a while, then closes/Within a dream."-or the Jack Lemmon movie whose title was taken from the Dowson poem) and the retrospective TELL ME WHEN IT'S OVER: THE BEST OF THE DREAM SYNDICATE. Though the band produced a lot of good music, almost all of it is contained on these two CDs. I'm actually not a big fan of the extended version of THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. The CD includes the eponymous EP that came out shortly before the LP and I find few of the EP cuts to be anywhere near as interesting as the LP versions. I'm not much of a fan of extended versions of albums; I rarely find that the extra cuts are especially good additions to an album. There are exceptions. Elvis Costello's extended versions of albums often contain fascinating alternative cuts of songs (e.g., the acoustic version of "Green Shirt") and the Gram Parson versions of the songs that were (for legal reasons) sung instead by Roger McGuinn on the Byrds's SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO are vastly superior. But these are the exceptions. To be honest, I would rather that THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES featured only the original cuts and I'll be honest and say that on my iPod I've deleted the additions and kept only the original nine cuts.
However one listens to this album, either at home with all the cuts or on iPod with extra cuts eliminated (my recommendation), this is one of the crucial albums in the development of alternative rock. The songs remain very strong a quarter of a century later (eeek! I suddenly feel old!). "Tell Me When Its Over," "When You Smile," "That's What You Always Say," "Then She Remembers," "Halloween," and the title track are as haunting now as when the album first came out. Truly one of rock's great albums.