Hope and heart in the age of Trump

Need some good US vibes to re­mind you that Amer­ica is ac­tu­ally re­ally great? Turn up The War On Drugs’ stun­ning new al­bum, ‘A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’


Num­ber of Nir­vanath­emed ve­gan cafes open­ing in Glas­gow. Smells like green spirit. Lil Wayne says his al­bum ‘Tha Carter V’, which was ex­pected in 2013, is fi­nally ready. Chop chop, pal. Adam Gran­duciel, leader of the band The War On Drugs in 2014, Af­ter AL­MOST A decade in the in­die wilder­ness, Philadel­phia’s The War

On Drugs re­leased their mas­ter­piece. ‘Lost in The Dream’ was an epic slice of bigsky Amer­i­cana, as per­fect for a route 66 road trip as it was the 55 bus to work. it grace­fully tipped the band into the main­stream, and now they’re back with the even dreamier ‘A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’.


The al­bum was recorded over a year in Los An­ge­les. On it, band­leader Adam Gran­duciel branches out from his trade­mark wist­ful gui­tar. “i play a lot of pi­ano on the record,” he says, be­fore re­flect­ing on why the al­bum can sound sad. “i was in my own zone and i felt pretty iso­lated and lonely.” That sad­ness might be to do with all the con­tem­pla­tion of age­ing, and the pass­ing of time. “it’s about try­ing to fig­ure out my re­la­tion­ship to grow­ing up –

[my] idea of be­com­ing an adult may be slower than oth­ers’,” muses Gran­duciel. So that’s the ‘Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’, then? “i guess it’s try­ing to fig­ure out where my story is in this big thing.”

The War On Drugs


made against the un­set­tling back­drop of Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign and sub­se­quent suc­cess, the unset­tled mood of Amer­ica fea­tures, too. “ev­ery­one in the stu­dio was ob­sessed with it,” he says, while ex­plain­ing that Trump’s in­flu­ence is a little more es­o­teric. “it’d be id­i­otic to not have it creep in. But i can’t sit and write about a spe­cific thing in the same way that some­body else would.” in­stead, what we get is an am­bi­gu­ity in mood, re­flect­ing what Gran­duciel sees as the “gen­eral hov­er­ing anx­i­ety” af­fect­ing the States. Through­out the dark­ness, though, the hope­ful vibes are strong. Like ‘Lost in

The Dream’, this is a huge, clas­sic-sound­ing al­bum. it’s full of Spring­stee­nian gusto and catchy, riff-tas­tic heart­land rock mo­ments of glory. “i’m re­ally into so­los you can whis­tle to,” says Gran­duciel. “Or play along to – it’s im­por­tant to have things in songs that you can play air drums on a steer­ing wheel to.” See you on the free­way, guys. Leonie Cooper

Read the NME re­view of ‘A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’ on p29

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