ALBUM REVIEW: The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

 

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Adam Granduciel has called this album A Deeper Understanding but it could’ve quite easily been called A Clearer Understanding given the clarity he’s applied to his songs this time around. He approaches them with direct and confessional lyrics that sound unquestionably autobiographical  but he’s also pared back some of the hazy, gauze-like qualities of the dreamy approach he’s taken to the music in the past.

There is less drift and more direction in these ten songs but that doesn’t mean he’s sacrificed any of that wide open sound and the propensity to indulge musically. There are still epic guitar solos, now paired up with equally grand and soaring 80s synths as the rhythm section diligently chugs and occasionally canters along with loping country rock or gently propulsive Krautrock grooves. As a result it’s a rarity for a song to be under six minutes, with Thinking Of A Place stretching to a cosmic and hypnotic eleven minutes. If ‘meditative rock’ is a genre (it is now), they are the torchbearers.

Vocally, Granduciel sounds less Springsteen and more Dylan, accentuating the nasal qualities of his voice, that husky whisper that always sounds wistful and like an afterthought as he searches for answers to what sound like existential answers. There’s a spiritual quality to The War On Drugs but it comes across as a cosmic more than religious.

A Deeper Understanding requires commitment from the listener and it’s one of those slow reveal albums. Give it the time it deserves because this is their best and most complete album to date.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: The War On Drugs @ OAF, Sydney (06/01/14)

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With friend and musical co-conspirator Kurt Vile in town shortly and getting more attention one might expect Adam Granduciel and his band The War on Drugs to fly under the radar yet they went close to selling out the Oxford Art Factory and played a show that was hypnotic and faultless.

Locals Day Ravies opened the evening with a set that was tentative and underwhelming initially but the quartet gathered steam, found their feet and weighted the back half of their set with their best songs. There was the nagging sense of an unresolved tug of war between the indie-lite guitar pop with docile vocals and the heavier psych/shoegaze direction, primarily led by the guitar of Sam Wilkinson. Day Ravies are still a band growing into their sound based on this performance.

As they took the stage, the immediate impact of The War On Drugs was the quality of the sound mix. Everything was in the pocket with an interesting and slightly processed drum sound, full and deep bass with guitar nestled in-between and the vocals clear and up front. The band played a diverse set that encompassed their various albums and EPs. Highlights included the infectious Baby Missiles and a blissed-out Brothers but really there were no weak points in the hour-long set. Granduciel was genuinely endearing in his banter with the audience which made the gig feel like a gathering of band and like-minded music fans. One generous punter even gave him a copy of The Triffids’ Calenture on vinyl.

The War On Drugs often get labelled as drone and psych but tonight they were a rock band that reveled in traditional musical elements such as the way Granduciel bends and shapes his words in a Dylan-esque fashion, the expansive moodiness of U2 circa The Unforgettable Fire and the bluesy harmonica moments. As a band they sounded effortless yet sonically bold and muscular, like a plane cruising at 30,000 feet. An early highlight for 2014.

Chris Familton

 this review was first published in The Music

LISTEN: The War On Drugs | Baby Missiles (from the new album Slave Ambient)

The War On Drugs (Adam Granduciel) released their brilliant debut Wagonwheel Blues back in 2008 and now they are about to release their sophomore album Slave Ambient on August 12th. On first listen it retains the same carefree, psychedelic rock n roll sound of their original with perhaps a little more clarity. Wagonwheel Blues introduced Kurt Vile to many people and though he soon departed to pursue his own solo career TWOD share sonic sensibilities in the droning, hazy approach to the music. Mark this down as one of the year’s best alongside J Mascis and Vile.

Check out the track Baby Missiles from the new album Slave Ambient.

 The War On Drugs | Baby Missiles

 

MP3: The War On Drugs set to release new album…

If you were as taken as us by The War On Drugs’ debut Wagonwheel Blues then the good news is they have a new 12″ Future Weather due out at the end of October via the ever reliable Secretly Canadian.

Apparently they are already well into the recording of an album proper which won’t be too far behind the 12″. Get a taste of the new stuff with the track below…

MP3 :: The War On Drugs | Comin’ Through

Tracklisting

  • Come to the City #14
  • Baby Missiles
  • Comin’ Through
  • A Pile of Tires
  • Comin’ Around
  • Brothers
  • Missiles Reprise
  • The History of Plastic

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