The War on Drugs – “A Deeper Understanding” (2017) review
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic, 2017)
With summer winding down there’s nothing like something exceptional to move you into the fall, and carry a bit of that August warmth through the winter … hence the fourth album from War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding, which is a forward looking intoxicating step into the future with just enough of those elegant sonically laden guitar chords you’ve come to know and love to hold your attention as you once again get lost in the dreams of Adam Granduciel and his merry band of top notch pranksters.
Adam has managed to do something that few others have been able to master, and that’s to patiently draw you in, in much the same manner as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, where he unwinds with enchanting honest lyrics laced with arrangements washed with heavy reverb, electric piano, and a sense of drumming that far too many have overlooked to this point, though Charlie Hall seems destined to go down as one of the greats. What’s made this album and the last so precious, is that the band has spent nearly ten years perfecting their sound, moving players and sounds in and out until the formula was perfectly polished, destined to make you weak in the knees and stumble as these songs reach out to wrap themselves around your heart again, while touching your soul with a wasted effortless blanket of melancholy designed to cradle and nurture the essence of your very being.
Adam and his music have always been rather personal, rather hazy and self reflective … though for fans, each delivery seems to bring the man more into focus, yet I’m more than sure that he will never completely step out of the shadows, as his introspection encompasses the nature of his being, and it’s that longing to understand the keeps listeners coming back, not so much for defined definition, but for another look at his captivating grainy black & white photographs pined to a gallery wall, without the need for framed presentation, because the pictures his songs present are purposeful enough to stand on their own without the need for enhancement or even explanation.
Yes, many of the songs are extensively long, yet sound crisp and streamlined in their complexity with meditative vocals that bounce against a relentless bass-line along with slide guitar work that weave their way into stoner heaven, where the band soars spirals and bursts like the silent ecstasy and momentary afterglow of a shooting star streaking across the velvet sky, causing you actually wonder if you’ve seen it, or if it’s all some sort of hazy memory echoing in your mind.
There’s a foggy magic found here on A Deeper Understanding, one that comes into our musical lives far too seldom, one that’s nearly liberating and transformative, existing nearly as a memory, where the intricacy of the music allows it to sound like classic rock that’s been recently discovered, where the band manages to be nearly singularly holding the touch, defining what great music with strength is all about. As with Lost In The Dream, A Deeper Understanding is a moment in time where a new fingerprint on the musical landscape has been placed, so you can either get on board now, or discover it all later, wishing that you’d been there then.
I suppose if I had one thing to say about the band War On Drugs, it’s that they forever seem to be starting over, where all that exists for them is this perfect moment in time.
*** The Fun Facts: Regarding the band’s name, Granduciel noted, “My friend Julian and I came up with the name a few years ago over a couple bottles of red wine and a few typewriters when we were living in Oakland. We were writing a lot back then, working on a dictionary, and it just came out and we were like Hey, good band name so eventually when I moved to Philadelphia and got a band together I used it. It was either that or The Rigatoni Danzas. I think we made the right choice. I always felt though that it was the kind of name I could record all sorts of different music under without any sort of predictability inherent in the name.”
Again the album is available on heavy coke bottle green vinyl, and I assure you, the attention to detail is evident in the sound quality.
Review by Jenell Kesler/2017
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