The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding review

Secret Meeting score: 82

by Phil Scarisbrick

Adam Granduciel has developed a reputation for creating soundscapes that you can really lose yourself in. In fact, 2014’s Lost In A Dream made you do exactly that. You could immerse yourself into the world as seen by Granduciel, full of anthemic colour and beating hearts, that give you a sense of sound-induced euphoria. A Deeper Understanding though is far more meticulous in its make-up, but is no less engaging.

The first release on Atlantic Records for The War on Drugs doesn’t so much as re-invent the wheel as much as develop from steel-plated to alloy wheels. We have added synths, the bass-driven build-ups feel larger in scale and the layered instruments seem to be denser in their variety. The signature Krautrock-influenced, driving drum beats still lay at the heart of what we hear here, but everything on top illustrates a greater maturity and is more fastidiously developed. The lush guitars of Strangest Thing with a hint of harmonica and building synths intersperse with Granduciel’s emotional vocal, both evoking Dylan’s mid-eighties work in vocal style and sound.

Nothing To Find smashes in with sleeve-wearing influences from the likes of The Smiths, Talk Talk and the oft-compared Bruce Springsteen. The 11-minute opus of Thinking of a Place is another synth-rich journey through this writer’s mind.

As one of several ‘indie’ acts who have made the jump to major labels recently (Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire being notable others), their major debut will certainly please fans of their previous work but will also encroach on pastures new. Despite often making obvious nods to their influences, the music never feels derivative. If Lost In A Dream made us lose ourselves in Granuciel’s imagination, then A Deeper Understanding helps us understand what is going on there.

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