The War on Drugs

A Deeper Understanding

Written by: MIN on 29/09/2017 15:38:58

Although Adam Granduciel’s War on Drugs-project already received its fair share of praise after the release of 2011’s “Slave Ambient”, that album’s follower, ”Lost in the Dream” from 2014, truly unveiled Granduciel and co. to the world. “Lost in the Dream” was a lush yet gravelly trip down Route 66 with nothing but endless hours and the open road ahead, giving nods to both Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits while also managing to incorporate its own charm. The result was a culmination of America’s history of rock and the warm, intriguing orchestrations of an indie rock band reaching its peak; synthesizers, fuzzy guitars and extended jams clashed and converged, creating an arena where “dad-rock”-fans and modern Pitchfork-“connoisseurs” were able to meet. Fast-forward three and a half years, “A Deeper Understanding”, The War on Drugs’ fourth LP, sees the light of day and follows much in the same vein, yet with slight variations.

Whereas its predecessor had a clear cohesion and red thread, “A Deeper Understanding” has greater emphasize on individual songs. The boldly chosen first single, the 11 minute-long “Thinking of a Place”, takes up one-sixth of the album’s duration and feels like a journey of its own. Guiding its listener through ethereal soundscapes, long lost loves, emotional guitar soli, inner turmoil and ultimately closure, it’s a career-highlight that never ceases to keep its listener entertained, simply by moving forward and constantly changing while remaining rooted in the same celestial universe. Another side of The War on Drugs’ latest album, however, is its liking towards more arena-sized rockers. Surely, album-choice cut “Strangest Thing” starts within the band’s usual realm, but once the guitar cranks up the volume and lets those slight chord-progressions fly off the rails, you can almost see entire crowds throwing their hands into the air during next year’s festival season.

Things sound familiar on “A Deeper Understanding”, and so far, it’s all for the better. Most tracks are highly accomplished in regards to songwriting, and whenever Granduciel and his companions manage to find a middle ground between a good drive and emotional impact, magic occurs. Album highlight “In Chains” manages to pace steadily forward with a beautiful piano-chord on repeat in the back while the drum-machine sputters up-front, giving way for Granduciel’s blue-collar Springsteen-esque romanticism to shine. Just try to hold back the goosebumps once that harmonica rips through the sound barrier six minutes in!

Although it doesn’t manage to reach the brilliance of “Lost in the Dream”, The War on Drugs newest outing still deserves high praise. The entire band work great together, and especially the swirling melodies and Granduciel’s ability to make some otherwise trivial lyrics come together works in favor for the band once again. A few songs are too evidently cut from the same old wood and others don’t have quite the same spark as the album’s highlights do, but “A Deeper Understanding” is constantly entertaining and gripping. It’s still easy to get lost in Adam Granduciel’s dream (see what I did there?) and the album gives you a deeper understanding (yes!) as to who he really is – even though Granduciel might not understand so himself just yet.

Prior to the release of this album, I read claims that The War on Drugs might be the best American rock band of the decade, and although I’m not sure if I agree, the band sure makes a believable claim to the title.


Download: Pain, Strangest Thing, Thinking of a Place, In Chains
For The Fans Of: Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Kurt Vile, Wilco
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.08.2017
Atlantic Records

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