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

Single Review – The War On Drugs – Strangest Thing

Adam Granduciels’s group are a month away from releasing their fourth studio album A Deeper Understanding. Following on from the light psychedelia of their previous singles ‘Thinking of a Place’ and the Heartland sounds of ‘Holding On’, the group settle for subtle elements of both to module an easy listening, steady track. The track is allowed to occupy vast space and breathe despite its steady core. In a song about coming to terms and understanding your feelings, the brushed percussion and echoed expanses of the guitar and synth chords add to the reflective mood of the track. This is reinforced by Adam’s earthy, yet delicate vocals. This track is by no means a groundbreaking one, but it delivers a common concept to maximum quality. Their fourth album is still eagerly awaited. 

Owen Riddle

Single Review – The War On Drugs – Holding On

Lost In A Dream was one of the most acclaimed albums of 2014 and The War On Drugs’ third studio album saw the Philadelphia band reach new heights intertwining Americana and Indie elements with Shoegaze and neo-psycheldic strands. Adam Granduciel made no secret of the introspective and personal nature of their last album and their August 25th release A Deeper Understanding looks to be the same. Their new track builds on and more acutely embraces the Heartland Americana of their last album as the song drives on with rumbling bass lines, whining guitars and these are overtures to a chorus dressed with plunging piano chords. The urban, post industrial environment of Philadelphia matches with the Springsteen-esque force of this track. What enhances this though, are shimmering and rotating pieces of electronica and intermittent moments of rough distortion, whilst Adam’s hazier vocals keep the song purposeful, yet also eerily distant. Another strong album to watch out for. 

Owen Riddle