The War on Drugs have gone from strength to strength with each album and now they’re set to release ‘A Deeper Understanding’; their first record on Atlantic Records. It follows 2014’s ‘Lost in the Dream’, a hugely successful album all around the world that brought about massive tours and high-profile slots at major festivals. Will the band continue their rise to the top of the indie-rock pile?
The groove-laden introduction of ‘Up All Night’ gently announces that The War on Drugs are back and ready to embrace their dedicated fan base once more. As more jangly guitars enter the mix, the song gets more and more psychedelic as synths and complex, pounding drums join the mix. It’s melodic but the lyrics talk about paranoia, holding on and being up all night. Following this is The Ryan Adams-like ‘Pain’. There’sa glint of hope and optimism that you can’t help but get on board with as Adam Granduciel claims ‘pain is on the way out now’ – and then this is followed by the heart-melting statement: ‘I was staring into the light when I saw you in the distance and knew you’d be mine’. Following this is a song that was made for festivals and daytime radio play – ‘Holding On’. It has Phoenix-style hooks and glockenspiel and can’t fail to make you smile and dance around.
This is followed by a couple of sadder songs with ‘Knocked Down’ seeming to be especially poignant. It finds Adam talking of being free and wanting to be someone else and then wistfully recalling: ‘Somehow I can make it rain diamonds in the sky, I’m like a child’; ‘Now I’m all beaten up and weak’. As a fine contrast to this, ‘Nothing to Find’ has the spirit of Future Islands but with added harmonicas and spirited ‘woos’. After this is the 11-minute behemoth of ‘Thinking of a Place’ – the album’s centrepiece. This indicates the first of a clutch of songs that clock in over six minutes (trust us, you need to make the time to sit down and listen to this record in full – but it is worth it) and they’re all full of passion and introspection, with a little bit of darkness: ‘Walking in the water’ is swiftly followed by the statement ‘Hold my hand, drown me in the water’. There are shoegazing guitar sounds on ‘In Chains’, a song that captures the spirit of Sun Kil Moon.
The last of the 10 songs on this record is ‘You Don’t Have to Go’, an intricate and heartfelt guitar anthem that opens acoustically but soon builds up speed and veers into a more experimental approach. We dare anyone not to get dust in their eye when Adam sings: ‘How can I wait until you recognised me whe you wwere inside my dreams’ This is then followed by the harrowing ‘I’ve been up since the break of dawn; I lost my mind today’. Like its title, ‘A Deeper Understanding’ does give you more insight into the world of The War on Drugs and is a hugely emotional album you will want to explore again and again.