The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding Review

War On Drugs are back with new album ‘A Deeper Understanding’, which admirers of the bands breakthrough album 2014’s ‘Lost In The Dream’ are sure to adore. This is a collection of songs that continue the bands slick and hazy riffs with those unavoidable husky vocals – Adam Granduciel, the leading force of War On Drugs, isn’t going to shake that Springsteen influence any time soon. 

From the first juddering piano notes of album opener ‘Up All Night’ ‘A Deeper Understanding’ feels like Granduciel guiding a lost wander through the cold streets of Philadelphia. Tracks like the vulnerable sounding ‘Pain’, ‘Holding On’, with its added xylophone shimmer, and the soul shattering ‘Knocked Down’ are just too heartfelt for description. Layering ever more instruments into the mix things become a dazzling exposition of synthesizers and slide guitar, lovingly crafted to lose yourself in for a few moments. 

‘Strangest Things’ feels even more like falling asleep with a worn around the edges radio close to your ear, sometime in the late seventies, or perhaps a track that would fit neatly into a particularly hopeful This Is Us, or Stranger Things, episode. 

Granduciel’s unpicking and reconstructing of classic rock elements, into yet another set of morose tracks somehow manages to still feel current enough to hold interest, despite having been creating tracks like these for half a decade. Even with the album’s themes of loss and a generally isolated, drifting through a city alone, feel not every moment of ‘A Deeper Understanding’ is completely clouded in despair. ‘Nothing To Find’ feels brighter, like breathing in a crisp morning, as layers of guitar and swathes of expensive instrumentation envelope you. 

Building a warmth in being alone the album creates the image of people talking to themselves about lost love under the stars, perfectly encapsulated in ‘Thinking Of A Place’s lyric; ‘love is like a ghost in the distance, ever-reached… I’m moving through the dark of a long black night just moving with the moon.’ Though dream-like ‘A Deeper Understanding’ doesn’t contain unrealistic happy endings or that habit some have at stopping the story short so everything looks as though it turned out okay, but something comfortingly close to reality, becoming peacefully resolved at carry memories. 

‘In Chains’ and ‘Clean Living’ gently guide, Springsteen style, towards closer ‘You Don’t Have To Go’, sharing its title with the slightly less heartfelt Jimmy Reed track, it’s the credits song to a film that carefully and unashamedly broke your heart; ‘lost my edge today, singing all my songs in the pouring rain,’ even with a little Dylan vocal tone slipping in here and there. 

Though seemingly more romantic than previous releases ‘A Deeper Understanding’ sounds so carefully put together it’s difficult to avoid being pulled into the world Granduciel has created. 

The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding = 8/10

Hayley Miller

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