Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Nov 2nd, 2017

The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding

The War on Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
(Atlantic Records)

Buy it at Amazon!

It has been getting increasingly hard to find anything resembling just good rock n roll. The heirs to the ones that have left us either haven’t found their footing or haven’t earned the trust of that particular audience.

The War on Drugs come damn near close with their newest release, A Deeper Understanding, an album full of late night driving songs that can be played on repeat without ever noticing they’ve been repeated. The album is full of 80s rock influence, and slow, simple, acoustic driven numbers that tread a line between what they call Americana and shoegaze.

Then again, I’ve never been a fan of genres, and while A Deeper Understanding could fit perfectly into one of those compartments, it’s not needed. The songwriting is tremendous, tight, nostalgic, perfect pining for the one that got away, or celebrating the one that didn’t.

Songs like “Up All Night,” feature singer Adam Granduciel treading into Bob Dylan’s vocal register, but keeping the vocals tight. “Pain” is a heart wrenching love song with unforgettable piano / guitar arpeggio. “Holding On” is the perfect 80s throwback with gated drums, complete with almost Mark Knopfler-like precision. “Strangest Thing” and “Knocked Down” roll into Ryan Adams territory but without the sappy, sharp, and glittery backdrop. The dynamic “In Chains” is a toe-tapping, reverb-heavy, immediate release of emotion with a low and slow sax noodling its way in and out of the verses, and a burst of synth washing through the chorus.

The rousing 11 minute “Thinking of a Place” delivers simplistic songwriting throughout, and really doesn’t feel like it’s 11 minutes long. The overwash breakdown mid-song that cuts it into two very different styles with the same chord progression is welcome. This is not progressive in the style of Zeppelin or Yes, but an augmented telling of what feels like a Southern Gothic tale.

A Deeper Understanding is a great album. One that has been missing from rock n roll for some time. With so many of our beloved rock heroes moving on, maybe The War on Drugs can carry the torch for the foreseeable future.

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The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding