Album: The War On Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore review

by Phil Scarisbrick

On what feels like their most collaborative record since Slave Ambient, The War On Drugs have created something that cements their legacy as one of the great modern rock bands

When it comes to prescribed roles in music, singers are always actors. How they embody the roles that they’re playing is a measuring stick of how much we invest in a song. That’s the unspoken parlet we make between artist and listener to invest in the story we’re being told. Often, the lines between actor and narrator can get blurred, especially when what we are experiencing is confessional or a glimpse into their reality. For The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel it is something that has been a cornerstone of the band’s music since their debut album, Wagonwheel Blues. Each part of the journey has given us varying peeks behind the curtain, for good or ill, as the actor and narrator jockeyed for supremacy. Now returning with new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, we’re getting to experience a new part of his life: contentment.

The path to get to this point seemingly has many factors including age, experience, fatherhood, and friendship – with all of these seeping into the next step in the story. The resulting record is an exhilarating experience. From the moody, sparse opener – Living Proof – to the vibrant imagery and interweaving melodies of closer, Occasional Rain, the journey feels vital. 

Having spent a lot of time working on 2017’s A Deeper Understanding on his own, this record sees a far more collaborative approach from Granducial with his bandmates, as well as other friends outside the group. This doesn’t really become apparent until the second track, Harmonia’s Dream, a synth-driven track that contains a lot of the hallmarks of what makes people love the band – complete with bombastic vocal harmonies in the chorus that take off into the stratosphere. The overall feeling though is that it feels like everyone involved is having a tonne of fun making this music.

And the fun continues on other album highlights including the deep cut, I Don’t Wanna Wait, with its airy vocal sitting above beautifully orchestrated guitars, before unleashing a chorus hook that you just won’t be able to shift. Victim, which is in a similar vein, drives with simple drums and piano stabs as Granduciel confesses, ‘I’m a victim of my own desire’, while the title track – featuring the vocal talents of Lucius on the chorus – is an instant favourite. It typifies everything that makes this record great with every instrument sounding huge, teetering on the edges of being too much, while just about reining it in enough to create something special.

As far as actors go, it has sometimes felt like Granduciel was not only the leading man, but at times in a one man show. With I Don’t Live Here Anymore though, it is very much an ensemble piece. The contentedness that permeates its way into the record has also allowed him to let others put their own stamp on the music. The result is an album that sits alongside the very best music that they have made, and cements their legacy as one of the great modern rock bands.

The War On Drugs feature on the cover of Issue 11 of the Secret Meeting zine. For more details, please click on the link here.

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