Dripping with passion and insight, The War On Drugs new album A Deeper Understanding blends dynamic ambience and poetic thought, creating a heart provoking piece of work.
A Deeper Understanding builds from their previous release Lost In The Dream, exploring similar soundscapes and the haunting spirit the band captured.
Opener Up All Night carries with it a steady developing pulse, setting up the rest of the album’s vibe and context. The instrumentation applied uses a wide array of textures and sounds to deliver subtle changes and progress.
The song contains lyrical cataphoric links to some of the topics included in the other tracks present on the album. Whether this was done subconsciously or not, it comes across as a musical prologue.
Having been influenced by differing yet distinctive artists such as The Waterboys, Tomita, The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel; The War On Drugs craft an original sound. It is interesting to have a band with such obvious past links still sound original in what they produce.
Frontman Adam Granduciel almost sounds Boy Dylan like with the use of his vocal timbre. This adds an aged wisdom to his words. He shares a distinctive vocal quality to ex-band member Kurt Vile, who left the band in 2008 to pursue a solo career.
Granduciel’s layering of guitar lines often intensify and swell the emotions stirred in the tracks. This is particularly evident towards the end of the second song on the album Pain, which sees the track rise to a heady emotional rupture through overdriven and fuzzed guitars.
A theme of loneliness and mental trauma is woven into the album. Knocked Down discusses the effects of loving someone you’re not supposed to or have the resources to “I want to love you but I get knocked down”.
However not all the tracks share the same vibe.
Nothing to find picks up the pace and rushes the listener into a guitar driven upbeat dash. Harmonica solos hark at the band’s blues influences and the background synth parts create a Dire Straits feel.
Although musically competent and experimental, the album does get repetitive and stale due to similar sounding songs and lyrics. This doesn’t make the collection of themes insipid, just consistent and expected. All the songs say the same thing almost.
The closer You Don’t Have To Go embodies all that is being said throughout the tracks and like with Up All Night, acts as a suitable bookend.
The subject of love is one music will never be able to shake, as it’s the most real and raw feeling a listener can relate to. As well as for a writer to feel within them. A Deeper Understanding represents the urge to make sense of this non-taboo and demonstrates a band’s increasing development of songwriting and style to flesh out what it means to feel and understand affection, devotion and obsession. All to the backdrop of a unique indie sonic experience.
The War On Drugs continues to master their skills at distilling the ecstasy and come down to love.