After nearly three decades in the music business, Steve Wynn once again reaffirms his mastery of straight-up rock & roll on Northern Aggression, his latest LP with the Miracle 3. The former leader of the Dream Syndicate doesn’t push any envelopes when it comes to writing or arrangements – no jazz chords or tricky time signatures or genre-fucking here. But he doesn’t need to – he’s long proven that if you write great songs and play them with passion and skill, you don’t need to rewrite the rule books. Northern Aggression certainly doesn’t need any gimmicks when it knocks so many balls out of the park.
Trying to pick a favorite, or even two or three, is damn near impossible. Should it be “The Other Side,” which moves from folk rock shimmer to classic rock anthemry and back? Or “Colored Lights,” which adds some acid pop swirl to a gorgeous melody and a wall of distortion? Or there’s “We Don’t Talk About It,” which rocks like it’s the soundtrack to the final closing of the bar at the end of the world. What about the lovely “St. Millwood,” with its combination of enigmatic lyricism and melancholy balladry? Or the opening “Resolution,” with its e-bow-enhanced psych rock bombast? Or perhaps it should be “The Death of Donny B,” a sparse cover of an anonymous tune from the soundtrack to an anti-drug short film from the late 60s.
The consistency and high quality on display here is simply stunning, as if Wynn has gathered up every iota of experience he’s earned over the past 30 years and channeled into one damn near career-defining collection. If you want further proof that age and maturity can be assets in rock & roll, check out Northern Aggression.