Think big

An­other Her­culean ef­fort from Adam Gran­duciel’s sex­tet, but at what cost? asks James McNair.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Albums -

ROCK HAS al­ways had its per­fec­tion­ists; rest­less folks lament­ing the gulf be­tween the record they hear in their heads and the one em­a­nat­ing from their speak­ers. Adam Gran­duciel of TWOD is one such; the kind of cre­ative who doesn’t be­lieve in down-time, just a con­stant chip­ping at the mar­ble block that might yet yield the sonic equal of Michelangelo’s David. His band’s sprawl­ing, epic fourth al­bum runs close to 70 min­utes, with many more left on the cut­ting-room floor. Be­hind walls of sound hewn

from lay­ered elec­tric and acous­tic gui­tars, Wurl­itzer, brass, pi­ano and more, there’s a sense of Gran­duciel and his Philadel­phia-based sex­tet striv­ing for tran­scen­dence. This is a band out to re­vi­talise the hoary old scare­crow of rock, stuff­ing it with light­ning not saw­dust. But Gran­duciel isn’t about to sac­ri­fice his on­go­ing love for the canon while they try. On Pain, one of two songs here nailed moreor-less live at Sonora Stu­dios, Los Angeles with Alabama Shakes engi­neer Shawn Everett at the con­trols, this writer hears the nostalgic ache of Don Hen­ley circa The End Of The In­no­cence. Opener Up All Night, mean­while, is the al­bum’s pop­pi­est mo­ment by far, and when its syn­co­pated bass and tom-tom rhythm kicks in, it could al­most be a Lindsey Buck­ing­ham song from Fleet­wood Mac’s Tango In The Night. Th­ese and other nods to clas­sic AOR – In Chains packs a Spring­steen-like ex­pan­sive­ness; Knocked Down is more drive-time than Alan Par­tridge’s gloves – are fil­tered through the transformative lens of hip, late 2017 in­die, then buffed via the at­ten­tion to de­tail for which Gran­duciel is well-known as a pro­ducer. The al­bum’s lyrics are rather opaque; vague if ob­vi­ously heart­felt al­lu­sions to lost love and per­sonal tra­vails that read part cutup method, part mod­ern myth. “There’s a story [here] about look­ing at your life and wondering how to hold onto the things that only you know make you you”, Gran­duciel has said, but this is rather un­sat­is­fy­ing; a small rab­bit of mean­ing dis­ap­pear­ing down a hole. With Think­ing Of A Place, all spec­tral synth in­tro and Dy­lanesque vo­cal de­liv­ery, clock­ing in at 11-min­utes plus, Knocked Down feels al­most fleet­ing at just un­der four min­utes. Re­fresh­ingly un­clut­tered, and firmly rooted in the ’70s thanks to its chim­ing Wurl­itzer, it is also a clear and beau­ti­fully sung stand-out. A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing is ex­hil­a­rat­ing in places, but per­haps in­evitably, given its long and con­vo­luted ges­ta­tion, it can at times feel like it’s try­ing too hard. The al­bum can also feel in­su­lar, the in­sights promised by the ti­tle Gran­duciel’s re­ward for mak­ing it, not ours for lis­ten­ing to it.

War On Drugs’ Adam Gran­duciel: max­i­mum rock’n’roll.

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