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December 2018 / January 2019
Review

The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

A superb piece of work which manages to push the band’s sound forwards without compromising on charm.
The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Published: 7:58 pm, August 20, 2017
A superb piece of work which manages to push the band’s sound forwards without compromising on charm.

Label: Atlantic Records
Released: 25th August 2017
Rating: ★★★★

When success finally arrived for Adam Granduciel, it was as ironic as it was unexpected. Produced in the aftermath of a broken relationship, crippling self-doubt and anxiety attacks, 2014’s ‘Lost In The Dream’ was both the most difficult album The War On Drugs’ frontman had ever made and among the most critically-acclaimed records of the year.

The Philadelphia outfit’s signature sound of melancholic sentiments set to driving motorik drums seemed to find a new gear back then, proving there was life yet in the widescreen Americana of Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac. Its success meant a new sense of pressure and anticipation greeted The War On Drugs’ subsequent fourth album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’.

It seems no one told Granduciel though, who has turned around another superb piece of work which manages to push the band’s sound forwards without compromising on the charm of its predecessors. If moments on 'Lost In The Dream'’s taught, high-tempo tracks sound like driving through narrow country lanes at 90mph, its successor is more akin to cruising down an empty highway on a summer’s night with the windows down.

Songs like ‘The Strangest Thing’ and the epic 11-minute long ‘Thinking Of A Place’ are given more room to breathe, with the latter breaking off into glorious, sprawling guitar solos. It’s a similar story on the heartbreaking and stripped-back sounds of ‘Knocked Down’, with its lyrics of lament and achingly beautiful guitar parts.

A perfectionist who has crafted much of his music alone, Granduciel decided to draft in extra help from this current crop of band members during the recording process in LA - a move which has resulted in more of a band record, with each instrument given greater scope and prominence than perhaps on previous efforts. And it's best demonstrated on the likes of defiant opener ‘Up All Night’ and lead single ‘Holding On’.

If ‘A Deeper Understanding’ takes off in a similar vein to its predecessor - as it quite rightly should - there really can be little surprise this time around. Even for Granduciel. Alex Thorpe

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