3×4 – The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate & Rain Parade (review)

3 x 4 – The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade (Yep Roc)


A love letter to the Paisley Underground

3 x 4 is a celebration of four bands and the scene they came from. The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade were all grouped together in the “Paisley Underground” of Southern California during the early 1980’s. The Bangles had the most success, but great things were written about all four bands. Now, they’ve decided to celebrate with a unique offering: a new album featuring all four bands – all covering each others’ material: three songs, four groups (hence the title).

The Paisley Underground was less a genre and more an aesthetic, shared by all of the groups, who all worshipped the music of the mid to late Sixties – at a time when it wasn’t cool to do so. Keep in mind, this was when both Disco and Punk were both winding down and New Wave was taking off.

Even though all four bands recorded their songs at different studios, there’s a cohesion here. It certainly helps that members of the Bangles lend their background harmonies throughout most of the tracks, but there’s something even deeper. Perhaps it’s shared experience, or friendship – but it comes through in the music.

The thing is, most of the songs will probably be unfamiliar to you. Yet, it doesn’t really matter – it still stands up. Take The Three O’Clock’s version of the Bangles’ “Getting Out of Hand” (back when they were known only as The Bangs). With insistent beat and pulsing organ, this could be a cover of a great lost Nuggets track. The Bangles give The Dream Syndicate’s noise-rock classic “That’s What You Always Say” a little more jangle, while still adding some of the feedback that was on the original (and a nice touch with the acapella ending).

The Rain Parade take The Three O’Clock’s “As Real As Real” and give it a dreamy quality, while The Three O’Clock replace the chaos of The Dream Syndicate’s “Tell Me When It’s Over” and add chiming guitars and psychedelic overtones.

Probably the most ironic song here is The Dream Syndicate doing “Hero Takes a Fall” – the song was actually about leader Steve Wynn, who admits in the liner notes to being that guy. As an added element of forgiveness, Vicki Peterson of the Bangles provides signature harmonies on the track.

The album closes with The Dream Syndicate’s cover of “She Turns to Flowers,” arguably the very first Paisley Underground song (from a pre-Three O’Clock band, The Salvation Army).

Even though the artists are 35 years removed from the scene, they still all manage to channel that joyful energy that made them pick up their instruments in the first place. The great thing about this record is that everyone gets to be who they are and cover their favorite songs, but in their own way. There’s certainly plenty of jangle to go around.

There’s a great booklet that features quotes from all the bands, shedding light on the history of the scene and how all the bands relate to each other. However, this is above all a great collection of songs that holds together cohesively, even though it’s played by four different bands. Some of the aggression and low fi elements of the original versions are replaced with better playing and better production on these newer ones, which is certainly not a bad thing.

It’s amazing that these four bands are still around over three decades later. 3 x 4 is a testament to longevity and a lasting musical friendship. —Tony Peters