I first heard The War On Drugs back in 2008. They were part of the knock about American indie scene that did well on Pitchfork and toured double headers where all the bands dressed in checked shirts. In fact, the night I had tickets for them they were on the road with The Hold Steady and you couldn’t have picked a single member of either band out as performers from the audience. Everyone at those shows dressed like Minneapolis bartenders, except the venues bartenders.
They had this mellower than the other bands vibe. Like they were in no real hurry for their songs to get going or to wind themselves up. After their slightly pacey debut LP Wagon Wheel Blues I’d say they really nailed their sound on the second follow up record Lost in the Dream from 2012. That’s a great record. It ties in the ‘AOR’ sound they’ve been singled out and lampooned for (a sort of late 80’s Eagles solo project feel but played by indie slackers with some feedback and noodling over slick slow melodies)
This isn’t stoner rock, you could maybe call it ‘hangover gloom’.
On the first cut from album number four A Deeper Understanding the sound has expanded that frame of mellow 80’s reference. The cadence in Adam Granduciel’s voice has taken on some of the Boss’ style. There are shades of Springsteen in the lyrics and the delivery. But mid period Boss. Streets of Philadelphia not Thunder Road. You could short hand them to ‘Bruce Springsteen and The Range does Steely Dan with Echo And The Bunnymen’s kit’ and you wouldn’t be too misleading.
There’s a lot of reverb and echo on the guitar, on the bass, on the keys. Slow chiming motifs expand around the song rather than catchy riffs. A couple of minutes in and every note feels like a coda. It’s a smooth ride. The whole recording sounds like it was captured on cinefilm.
This is luxury indie rock for late night conversation and drinking questionable drinks from jam jars.