Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Northern Aggression

Yep Roc
Music •••• Sound •••1/2


Steve Wynn’s last two albums were quieter (2008’s Crossing Dragon Bridge) and noisier (2005’s . . . tick . . . tick . . . tick) than Northern Aggression, but this one comes out sounding more intense than either. Life, death, and transcendence are heavy on Wynn’s mind this time, and his lyrics temper their profundity with wry humor. “Resolution” opens the disc with a vision of melting into the sky; “Ribbons and Chains” closes it with the afterlife as a crowded party. In between come “The Death of Donny B,” a ’60s drug soundtrack tune that’s not played for laughs; “The Other Side,” a jangly remembrance of friendships gone by; and “Cloud Splitter,” a power-pop revival hymn.

It sounds heady, and it is, but it’s also full of the energizing rock & roll that Wynn and his Miracle 3 make on a really good day. This band has now outlasted his original band, the Dream Syndicate, by several years. Old Syndicate fans will feel at home with the squalling feedback of “Resolution” and the Crazy Horse guitar-slinging of “On the Mend,” but Wynn’s grasp of melody was never this strong in the ’80s. And Northern Aggression may qualify as his most psychedelic album yet, thanks to a few touches (Mellotron overdubs here, some vocal distortion there, and a few repeating, mantra-like choruses) that give the disc an enticing sense of mystery.