Rare is the mention of Steve Wynn that does not include a corresponding nod to the Dream Syndicate, the acclaimed post-punk group he led up until its demise in the late 1980s. While that band would make an admirable anchor for just about anyone’s indie-rock resume, the “former Dream Syndicate frontman” tag does not begin to do Wynn justice — not after the solid solo career he has carved out, and especially not when the music he is making with his current backing musicians is so vital and vibrant.
Which brings us to …tick…tick…tick (Down There Records), the umpteenth album from Wynn (an official tally proves tricky, due to some European releases floating around) and his third with The Miracle 3. It not only exceeds the high standards established on their previous efforts — 2001’s Here Come the Miracles and 2003’s Static Transmission— but has the makings of a classic on a par with The Dream Syndicate’s revered debut, The Days of Wine and Roses, or any other critical high point of Wynn’s career.
It is a varied, passionately performed set of tracks that showcases not only Wynn’s reliably sharp writing and convincing, often-vulnerable delivery, but the cohesiveness he and the Miracle 3 (fiery guitarist Jason Victor and the mighty rhythm section of bassist Dave DeCastro and drummer Linda Pitmon) have developed over several years of heavy touring.
Proof of it is all over …tick…tick…tick‘s 11 tracks, most, if not all, of which were road-tested months before the disc was recorded. Wynn offers up an impressive mix of hard-charging rockers, contemplative ballads, folk-pop musings and more, and his bandmates lend the right treatment throughout.
The manic disc opener “Wired” — with distortion thrown onto Wynn’s vocals for good measure — and the raucous “Killing Me” exude the amped-up intensity of the band’s live shows. The unrequited love at the heart of “Cindy, It Was Always You” is accentuated by the chaotic combination of faint harmonica over Victor’s typically wicked licks.
Elsewhere, a pedal steel adds to the haunting “The Deep End”; piercing organ notes bring a dash of psychedelia to “Freak Star”; and “No Tomorrow” closes things with a grand poetic, melodic flourish (“And if the world must end, there’s no need to pretend/I want to love you like there’s no tomorrow”).
Raw and roaring in parts and refined in others, …tick…tick…tick is a confidently crafted work born of consummate musicianship. It is resounding enough to be the album that finally could redefine Steve Wynn, once again the leader of a great band.
— By George Henn