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The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding (Album Review)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

After the unexpected adulation afforded to 2014’s ‘Lost in the Dream’, the War on Drugs suddenly found themselves on a whole new level. The praise was fully justified, with tracks like Under The Pressure, Red Eyes and the fantastic An Ocean In Between The Waves sending shivers down spines.

Frontman Adam Granduciel wielded his guitar like a magic wand, coating the songs with the sort of soft-rock sheen not seen since Mark Knopfler elevated Dire Straits above the background noise almost single handedly.

‘A Deeper Understanding’ is the band’s fourth long player and first for a major label - Atlantic - after they severed ties with Secretly Canadian.

It feels bigger, brighter and more cinematic than ever before, with Granduciel himself describing the new material as “gooey, punchy, thick, and big-sounding”.

More grandiose it certainly is. Most tracks here creep over the six minute mark and, while it rarely matches the high points of its extraordinary predecessor, overall this is a more consistent record that has raised the benchmark as a result.

The 11-minute – originally 14-minute – behemoth Thinking Of A Place was an early taste of the goods. A slow moving juggernaut abundant with reflective lyrics - as are the majority of tracks here - it’s easy listening at its very finest. Added slide guitar assists with an overwhelming sense of relaxation.

You Don’t Have To Go, meanwhile, goes the whole hog with the Dire Straits comparisons, building a crescendo of noise like an approaching locomotive. But you can’t help but wonder whether the middle-aged are even aware of the War on Drugs. Fans of stately rock and Bruce Springsteen need nudging in their direction if only for the Boss-esque chorus on In Chains, which erupts with sudden bursts of energy amid harmonica and drum rolls.

The brilliant, pacy single Holding On comfortably soars to the same level as the best moments on ‘Lost in the Dream’. A sweeping chorus and addictive guitar hooks adorn the song as a sense of regret seeps out, while Pain picks a Fleetwood Mac beat to underpin Granduciel’s ‘vocal burst’ style and excellent guitar soloing. Its lyrics sorrowfully tell of “a fear in his eyes that I could understand”. Opener Up All Night is another winner as the band effortlessly traverse mainstream rock and the periphery of alternative cool.  

‘A Deeper Understanding’ has taken the War on Drugs’ increasingly impressive stature by the horns and yanked it up a notch. If Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen fans get wind of just how good this band is, then sold out stadiums might be on the horizon.

The War On Drugs Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu November 09 2017 - GLASGOW Barrowland Ballroom
Fri November 10 2017 - GLASGOW Barrowland Ballroom
Sun November 12 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Mon November 13 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Tue November 14 2017 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Wed November 15 2017 - PORTSMOUTH Portsmouth Guildhall

Click here to compare & buy The War On Drugs Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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