The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding

review the war on drugs x1 cong

It’s not often that we agree with the national critics, whose albums of the year are always works we never thought much of, while our favourites never feature in anyone else’s top 50 CDs. This new The War On Drugs album, their fourth, has been universally praised and analysed and, for once, we’re on board. It’s great.

New Yorker magazine devoted two pages to it, taking a long run-up by starting off in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll in Tennessee and Mississippi, and only reaching Adam Granduciel (the band’s main man) via Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend, branding The War On Drugs the best rock act of the decade. On the evidence of this CD, it’s not wrong.

Musically, it’s near perfect; New Yorker reports that Granduciel obsessed over every second. It’s very easy to listen to, in the same way as Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac are easy, though never bland, always moving along. The first time we played the uptempo Holding On, we basically stared at the speakers in awe for five minutes and 50 seconds: something of the pomp of Killers, the drive of Tom Petty and the guitar of the Isleys. It’s a guitar album as much as anything, the vocals being soft and even, and not dominating.

Lyrically, it’s as good as rock gets. It’s not poetry but it sounds deep and meaningful: “Shots may ring / Through a lonely hall / But the hole in my head / Emptied out into our love.” That sort of thing. Very introspective.

It should be massive, and serious music fans will love the complexity and depth.

Centrepiece Thinking Of A Place is 11 minutes long, with some sublime guitar work.


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