THE WAR ON DRUGS

PHILADELPHIAN TRUTH-SEEKER REVS UP FOR ANOTHER ROAD TRIP BE­TWEEN THE COS­MIC AND THE CLAS­SIC.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

Can Adam Gran­duciel meet ex­pec­ta­tions on his band’s keenly awaited fourth al­bum? (right)

THE WAR ON DRUGS A DEEPER UN­DER­STAND­ING AT­LANTIC, OUT 25 AU­GUST

There’s a thin line be­tween at­ten­tion to de­tail and ob­ses­sive per­fec­tion­ism, and Adam Gran­duciel’s ten­den­cies in both di­rec­tions have been well­doc­u­mented through­out The War On Drugs’ ca­reer. Their un­ex­pect­edly de­ci­sive 2014 break­through, Lost In The Dream, was rewrit­ten and rewrit­ten again be­fore its fi­nal re­lease; Gran­duciel has re­cently spo­ken wryly of sleep­less nights think­ing about kick drum sounds. No won­der, then, that when he sings, “I want to find what can’t be found” on the beau­ti­fully wracked Pain, the sec­ond track on this un­hur­ried fourth al­bum, it rings out like a clear mis­sion state­ment. This is a band who al­ways seem to be on a quest, some­times col­laps­ing back on the sofa in a daze, but never quit­ting. A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing re­dou­bles their ef­forts to find not only the per­fect sound – that kick drum! – but those big, neb­u­lous things like love and truth and self-knowl­edge. It’s not, then, a mod­est record, an unas­sum­ing space-filler. There is, at times, a hazy vague­ness to it, but it would be an er­ror to think that the ur­gent pulse of In Chains, or the woozy bal­lad Clean Liv­ing (“All this liv­ing and no life”) could ever fade into the back­ground. More of a full band project af­ter Lost In The Dream’s ef­fec­tively solo op­er­a­tion, it’s no­tice­ably lusher, more ex­pan­sive, tape loops and synths and mel­lotrons cre­at­ing a shim­mer­ing field of vi­sion at the edges of even the straight­est songs. As with its pre­de­ces­sors, A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing knows how to keep the solid black tar­mac-strip of ra­dio-friendly rock be­neath its end­lessly spin­ning wheels: Bruce Spring­steen, Daniel Lanois-pro­duced Bob Dy­lan, and on the ghostly Walk Of Life synth riff of Noth­ing To Find, Dire Straits. Open­ing track Up All Night, a fine ri­val for Lost In The Dream’s Un­der The Pres­sure, holds a lighter un­der Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is un­til it starts to melt round the edges. That this cos­mic AOR doesn’t pall, doesn’t be­come a gim­mick or par­ody, is largely down to the con­stant ten­sion be­tween the drive-time clas­si­cism and the space-race fu­tur­ism, be­tween blue-col­lar rock and blue-sky think­ing, two dif­fer­ent co­or­di­nates of the Amer­i­cana dream. It says a lot about Gran­duciel’s sub­tlety and sup­ple­ness as a song­writer that, even over 11 min­utes, Think­ing Of A Place is one of A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’s high­lights. Never los­ing fo­cus, it’s a song in a slow state of con­stant evo­lu­tion, the open­ing synth wash blos­som­ing into a fresh-cut coun­try chug. It’s like watch­ing gpa painter at work on a time­lapse cam­era, slowly build­ing up an emo­tional scene, a gui­tar smudge, a splash of har­mon­ica, sud­denly chang­ing the mood from elated to ex­hausted and back again. There are strik­ing lyri­cal images here: a man with a bro­ken back (“He had a fear in his eyes I could un­der­stand”) on the Neil Young mood-board of Pain, or the tan­gi­bly “glow­ing” love pour­ing out of an omi­nous hole in the head on Up All Night. Yet it is the in­tri­cate push-and­pull of the mu­sic that com­mu­ni­cates A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing’s sense of phys­i­cal and men­tal yearn­ing, its bliss­ful con­vic­tion that if you keep mov­ing, an­swers will come. Or, as Gran­duciel puts it on the ex­hil­a­rat­ing gui­tar swan-dive of Hold­ing On, “I keep mov­ing with these changes.” The War On Drugs might never

quite find what they’re look­ing for – it would al­most be a shame if they did – but with a record as glo­ri­ously re­alised as A Deeper Un­der­stand­ing, it feels like they’re get­ting closer ev­ery day.

VIC­TO­RIA SE­GAL Lis­ten To: Up All Night | Pain | Think­ing Of A Place

IT KEEPS THE SOLID BLACK TAR­MAC-STRIP OF RA­DIO-FRIENDLY ROCK UN­DER ITS WHEELS.

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