A Deeper Understanding

The War On Drugs

A Deeper Understanding
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A Deeper Understanding

The War On Drugs

A Deeper Understanding is the band’s first album since 2014’s universally acclaimed Lost In The Dream, their debut album with Atlantic. Following the Record Store Day release of the 11-minute track ‘Thinking of a Place’, The War On Drugs present the album’s lead single, ‘Holding On’.


For much of the three and a half year period since the release of Lost In The Dream, The War On Drugs' frontman, Adam Granduciel, led the charge for his Philadelphia-based sextet as he holed up in studios in New York and Los Angeles to write, record, edit, and tinker - but, above all, to busy himself in work. Teaming up with engineer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Weezer), Granduciel challenged the notion of what it means to create a fully realized piece of music in today’s modern landscape.

Calling on his bandmates - bassist Dave Hartley, keyboarding Robbie Bennett, drummer Charlie Hall and multi-instrumentalists Anthony LaMarca and Jon Natchez - continuously throughout the process, the result is a “band record” in the noblest sense, featuring collaboration, coordination, and confidence at every turn.

Through those years of relocation, the revisiting and re-examining of endless hours of recordings, unbridled exploration and exuberance, Granduciel’s gritty love of his craft succeeded in pushing the band to great heights.

 

Review

A Deeper Understanding is the fourth LP from Philadelphia sextet The War on Drugs, who prove again that they are artists of art-rock atmosphere. This album has been previewed largely via live studio sessions and under the corporate supervision of Atlantic Records, who pursued the band. The LP is, in full, a work of uncompromised tribute to its 70s and 80s forefathers.

This contemplative and cruising effort carries on beautifully from Lost in a Dream, but has some decidedly elongated meditations, more solos, more reverberating, and carries a type of storytelling told through a musical arc rather than derivative lyricism. Best tracks include the especially dreamy ‘Thinking of a Place’ and ‘ Clean Living’ but my favourite is easily the slow-dance melancholia of ‘Strangest Thing’, which rises and swells in the dream-style that might come to define the band’s particular brand of rock.

Vocalist and songwriter Adam Granduciel has a voice familiar, yet hard to pin down: as if Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel (and, hey, even Bryan Adams) formed a single aural vessel. The album is a kind of history lesson in Americana sentiment with a dash of post-prog 80s art pop – a rare delight to be shared with the new-millennial students of the sound and the long-time heartland nostalgia types. Its heart is housed in a distinctly American sound. Whichever camp you choose to liken it to, it can be said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Most refreshing, however, (and a disadvantage to so many other acts attempting to stir the same nostalgia), is Granduciel’s singularity. Rather than a swathe of vocal harmonies from four bearded brothers, he’s an outstanding frontman – should the band be named for him? – for under his guidance, the LP delivers precisely what it promises: A Deeper Understanding.


Jemima Bucknell is our Online Fulfilment Manager.

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