Philly has always been something of a hotbed of musical talent, but over the last few years the game has been raised thanks to 80s retro rock quintet The War on Drugs. Fronted by enigmatic, flannel shirt-clad vocalist Adam Granduciel and dead-set on revisiting the joys of synth-driven 80’s rock, these guys look like they’ve just walked off the set of a Jonathan Demme movie.
Like their 2014 Breakthrough hit Lost in the Dream, the genius of LP number four lies in the way it serves up such a homage to a pretty narrow genre of music history and makes it sound so immersive – so new. Specifically on songs like “Nothing to Find”, where the hook is a near identical facsimile of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” or the Neil Young-patented low-E twang on “You Don’t Have to Go”, but also in the grander scheme of things like the use of moog organs, booming drums and Granduciel’s earnest, weathered vocals.
It’s Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, Dylan and to some extant, Phil Collins all wrapped into one joyous daydream of multi-textured beauty, where synths sparkle and slide guitars heavy with reverb bind together some truly lovely songwriting (“Holding On”, “In Chains”). There are maybe a few less giddy thrills compared to Lost in the Dream – no-one does a well-timed ‘WOOO!’ better – but that doesn’t detract at all from A Deeper Understanding’s romantic notions of lost highways and late night dive bars.
As with its predecessor, this is the kind of record that makes you want to jump in a rusty Cadillac and disappear into the great wide open with Patricia Arquette riding shotgun.
Like this? Try these:
Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
Ex WoD lead guitarist goes it alone.
Bruce Springsteen – The River
Early 80’s masterpiece from The Boss.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Beardy retro rock with country vibes.
The War on Drugs | Deeper Understanding