Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It’s hard to be vague in rock music these days. I don’t mean rock as a blanket term, but rawk — songs founded on guitars, bass, drums, etc. Songs that you write on an acoustic, knowing damn well that you’ll soon electrify the hell out of them. Or maybe you’ll just keep the demo version ….
Every so often, a band – or artist – comes along with an easily definable, name-droppable heritage that in itself is ‘classic’. The War On Drugs – and main man Adam Granduciel – have such a heritage. Ex-member but regular contributor Kurt Vile has become a breakout star in recent times by making superb album after superb album, culminating in 2013’s finest stoner-pop effort Wakin On A Pretty Daze.
Review Summary: I'm in my finest hourThe War on Drugs’ 2011 record Slave Ambient was an impressively layered pastiche of roots rock and noisy navel-gazing, lush and pockmarked with nooks and crannies, the stitches holding together Petty and Dylan with Neu! and My Bloody Valentine barely visible. It stumbled and soared through a negative image of the American heartland while injecting it with some modern indie sensibilities, but the band’s distinctive tone, introduced on 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues and tirelessly honed after the departure of founding member Kurt Vile, remained stronger than ever. Letting yourself float along never felt so good.
Up until now The War On Drugs have been somewhat eclipsed by the achievements of former member Kurt Vile. Main man Adam Granduciel appeared in Vile’s band The Violators too. Evidently Philadelphia, where both acts reside, is a small town for those in possession of a well-tuned guitar and serious songwriting chops. However, with ‘Lost In The Dream’ – already one of 2014’s truly great records – Adam looks set to stand shoulder to long-lock-draped shoulder with Kurt as Philly’s most highly regarded musical sons.
When Philadelphia-based purveyors of stripped-down, haunted rock perfection the War on Drugs came on the scene with their 2008 debut, Wagonwheel Blues, their sound perked up the ears of a new generation of soul searchers looking for a soundtrack. Summoning up the patron saints of FM radio rock, the band was constantly framed as an update to the wild-eyed sermons of Dylan and Springsteen or the summer-night abandon that Tom Petty perfected, all filtered through walls of decidedly indie guitar noise. Founding member Kurt Vile left the band to pursue his blooming solo path by the time of 2011's Slave Ambient, leaving key songwriter Adam Granduciel running the show completely for that album's well-received set of songs and heightened production.
Adam Granduciel, the man behind the War on Drugs, has been recording trance-inducing Americana since 2005, and along with his long-time friend and former bandmate Kurt Vile, created a whole new style of folk-based rock reverie doused in an ocean of synthesizers. Lost in the Dream is the band’s third full-length and continues to develop the Tom Petty-meets-Sonic Youth sound they pioneered. On all of the band’s previous releases, Granduciel would build the core of the songs himself, playing most of the instruments and endlessly tinkering with the mixes until they’d reached an adequate level of perfection.
Mid-February, this album arrives, as England soaks in floodwaters and we start to wonder if we’ll ever see land again, let alone summer, and it’s a challenge for any band that isn’t Mogwai to appropriately match the national mood. Rain hits on rain and bow windows swell and we just start to take it for granted that the ground beneath is going to disintegrate, that skies are supposed to be the colour of bruising and that John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes should probably be a set text from now on. Most of us haven’t bothered opening our curtains this year.
The War on Drugs’ 2011 album Slave Ambient saw perpetual unease as a Zen state: bandleader Adam Granduciel’s ruminations on restlessness read like a veritable prescription for Xanax, but the psychedelia-smeared country-rock enveloping his words was all, like, “No worries, dude.” The War on Drugs’ third album, however, presents no easy remedy for his inner turmoil. If the mesmerizing motorik hum of Slave Ambient gave Granduciel an outlet to escape his problems, Lost in the Dream is where he pulls a U to survey the emotional wreckage. While his former War on Drugs compadre Kurt Vile is forever Waking on a Pretty Daze, Granduciel has been sleepless through some ugly nights.
Back in the days of their first LP, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, The War on Drugs offered “Arms Like Boulders” and “Buenos Aires Beach”—poetic storms in the vein of Dylan and his ceaseless, ever-significant ramblings; there, the rhythms’ main purpose seemed to be to provide a foundational support for Adam Granduciel’s lengthy, effortlessly-delivered lyrics. Since then, the formula’s been reversed with subtly distorted vocals; patterned, endlessly layered guitars; and steady percussion taking the forefront as melodies existing in a suspended, consistent ambience—never feeling like they have an end. On Lost in the Dream, like the preceding Slave Ambient, frontman Granduciel carries the album with reigning, rippling melody lines played out on lead guitar (through his beloved Moogerfooger Ring Modulator), lyrics having relinquished the throne.
Somewhere along the line The War On Drugs has evolved from the solo project of former Kurt Vile collaborator Adam Granduciel to a fullblown “Cosmic American” rock band. Lost In The Dream showcases a new cohesion, ambition and dynamism that only comes from musicians who’ve developed a deep understanding on the road – a stark contrast to Granduciel’s fledging efforts. The modus operandi is a widescreen, driving type of rock music with subtle peculiarities and an unexpected fragility.
I wasn’t sure I needed an album like Lost in the Dream until I heard it. Even then, it took a few listens before I could articulate why it scans the way it does: Wistful but not resigned, invigorated but not wide-awake. As its title suggests, Lost in the Dream often trades in gaseous, impressionistic hues, and a cavalry of affected guitar, synth, lap steel, sax, harmonica and piano tracks gel into luminescent aural sunsets at several points throughout the album.
On Lost in the Dream, his third album as TWOD, Adam Granduciel puts forward the notion that no genre is irredeemable. This Philadelphian longhair and his band have dusted off the smug 80s chug of Dire Straits, the percolations of Tom Petty and the more over-produced corners of Springsteen and made a startlingly clubbable record out of them. A dystopian haze helps to defuse what might otherwise have been overweening guitar licks on An Ocean in Between the Waves; like Slave Ambient (2011), Lost… maintains a kind of motorik languor throughout, turning 80s arena rock into something much more intriguing.
Following the success of 2011’s impressive Slave Ambient, Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs’ main man Adam Granduciel has lived anything but an easy life. A relationship break-up saw him spending a huge amount of time alone as he buried himself deep within his music, seemingly gaining an insight into depression in the process as opposed, it should be stressed, to being consumed by it. With former bandmate and kindred spirit Kurt Vile taking the plaudits last year with the impeccable Wakin On A Pretty Daze, it would be fitting if Granduciel and his current band could conjure up an album worthy of competing with both Vile’s latest as well as Slave Ambient.
Singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel reportedly recorded much of the War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream on his own, bringing in bandmates David Hartley, Robbie Bennett, and Patrick Berkery to record their parts individually. This disconnected recording process is somewhat surprising given how fluid and interwoven the album feels, with instrumental parts that fade into each other with eerie synchronization. It's only fitting, however, that Lost in the Dream is in large part the vision of one person.
Since the War on Drugs' 2008 debut, Wagonwheel Blues, Philadelphia musician Adam Granduciel has combined 80s-style rock with 70s kosmische musik. He does so on Lost in the Dream, only more so. Imagine Neu! covering Dancing in the Dark. On the one hand, there's a dash of Springsteen in the lyrics, that you-and-me-versus-the-broken-American-dream romanticism.
The War on Drugs make the old new. The Philadelphia band's third album, like their 2011 breakthrough, Slave Ambient, brings to mind a more hypnotic Springsteen, a more sprawling Tom Petty, a less verbose Bob Dylan, a hazier Fleetwood Mac. But then there are the motorik drum loops, and always that heavy, somewhat bleak backdrop of reverb-drenched keyboards and guitars.
Now that Arcade Fire have opted to be Talking Heads, it would be easy to say that it’s been left to Adam Granduciel and his War on Drugs to take the mantle as modern-day Springsteen. If only things were that easy.Yes, The Boss’ fingerprints are all over ‘Lost In The Dream’ but the reality of what War on Drugs do is a lot more intricate – of course Granduciel cherry picks from American classic rock, not least Springsteen, Petty and Dylan, but he also manages to reference My Bloody Valentine, The Cure and Neu. Which is to say this is classic rock through a krautrock lens.
If HBO’s The Wire taught us anything, it’s that the war on drugs navigates a lot of gray area. I don’t know if Adam Granduciel had anything like that in mind when he decided to start a band called The War On Drugs, but his songs often exist in a similar kind of gray area, a sense of purpose that’s rarely delivered with any sense of directness. His odes to heartlanders like Dylan, Petty and Springsteen come packaged in nebulous bursts of sound, but “bursts” is probably too strong a word.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When lead singer & songwriter Adam Granduciel was in town recently for a press run I inadvertently had the privilege of a brief encounter. A quintessential American rocker with shoulder length scraggly hair, top to toe in faded blue denim and a piercing gaze reducing me to a small boy. When he shook my hand it was almost ripped off, but as he spoke his gregarious nature and infectious smile rippled through the entire office.
The War on Drugs make archetypal road-trip music: shimmering, steady, gritty as pavement and open as the sky. Longer on instrumental texture than songwriting, their third album recasts the blue-collar fantasias of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen as earthy ambient music, better to soak in than to scrutinize. As usual with T.W.O.D., these songs are only as good as their grooves: Seven-minutes-plus songs like "In Reverse" and "An Ocean in Between the Waves" have enough locomotion to go twice as long, while slower tracks like "Suffering" are deadwood in search of a spark.
Since emerging in 2008 with Wagonwheel Blues, these Philadelphia sons have been purveyors of the finest one- and two-chord jams that charted their geographic and spiritual proximity to both Springsteen and the Velvet Underground. Lost in the Dream starts down this same path on churning opener "Under the Pressure," but then splits off into several directions that feature expanded instrumental experiments and a tendency towards bigger, if slightly narcotized, anthems. Singer Adam Granduciel piles his blue collar mystic lyricism atop a rush of eddying rhythms and tones that feature Robbie Bennett's keyboards more prominently than ever.
Anyone actively looking for flaws in Lost In The Dream, the exquisite new album from The War On Drugs, is quite frankly listening to the album wrong. And at any rate, they simply won’t find any, no matter how hard they search. Any pressure or expectations that Adam Granduciel and his cohorts felt trying to follow up their stellar 2011 breakthrough, Slave Ambient, are emphatically shrugged off on the dynamic opening track – fittingly titled “Under The Pressure” – as the sprawling elegance of these expansive, spellbinding numbers give the album a weightless charm that is never once bogged down by modern concerns or overly ambitious sonic missteps.
The band and its fans are undoubtedly sick of the comparison, but there’s no denying it: The War On Drugs sounds like Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits. Instead of imitating those and other FM mainstays, however, The War On Drugs aims for listeners’ feelings about them, and for our collective radio unconscious. On Lost In The Dream, they nail us good.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK If we’re to look at the methodology of guitar music, we’re within Zeno’s reach of the point where every possible input has been tested to some degree. The debate over whether rock and roll is somewhere between dead and dying has intensified as of late; even titans of the field are feeling the need to come to its defense. Either way, I don’t think you could find many who would argue that there hasn’t been a sea change for the genre in about 20 years – unless you’re willing to consider nu-metal and post-grunge as innovations, which you shouldn’t be.
The War on Drugs … Adam Granduciel’s band is named for America’s dubious ‘war on drugs,’ initiated by Richard Nixon in 1971, which has subsequently cost the American people roughly $51,000,000,000.00 annually. Of course Granduciel’s war may be more personal. Yet the allusion is a knowing one. On Lost in the Dream, Granduciel’s dream sounds like an updating and reimagining of the very Seventies from which the band’s namesake sprang.
There’s a song by Built to Spill called “You Were Right,” which goes: You were right when you said all that glitters isn’t goldYou were right when you said all we are is dust in the windYou were right when you said we’re all just bricks in the wallAnd when you said manic depression’s a frustrated mess It’s one of Built to Spill’s better known songs, from one of their better known albums, Keep it Like a Secret, which came out in 1999 when I was 19 years old and I either didn’t know or didn’t care about what Doug Martsch, or anyone else for that matter, was going on about. The band was at the height of their spindly powers, sprouting melodic brambles of guitar over Martsch’s everyman warble, but all I thought at the time, in my wisdom, was that the song seemed gimmicky. Was “dust in the wind” that Bob Seger song from Forrest Gump? All I heard was a reference to a reference to a reference, like mirrors turned to face one another, reflecting back into infinitesimal nothingness.
Although lately it seems that traditional rock ‘n’ roll is on the comedown amidst the many and multiple electro-explosions that dominate the modern music scene, once in a while we’re reminded of why it is that rock will always be America’s sound, no matter how much trap and haus surrounds us. Lost In The Dream is the third studio album release by Philadelphia-formed group the War On Drugs, originally brought together by indie-king Kurt Vile and the band’s current frontman, Adam Granduciel. Though their 2011 release, Slave Ambient, was technically the band’s breakout album, Lost In The Dream is a far more ambitious and heart-rending Americana accomplishment.
A glance at the cover of Lost In The Dream might suggest something has changed since the last The War On Drugs record – 2011's Slave Ambient. For the first time we see Adam Granduciel portrayed on the cover of his record, looking tentatively towards the world through a veiled window. Whilst this might be interpreted in different ways – perhaps a nod to his adored heroes, Dylan or Springsteen – the true answer lies within the story of the record.
Tone is everything for the War on Drugs. You hear tone, a silvery shade of effortless cool, in the electric guitars that ring out in ricocheting patterns and in singer-songwriter-visionary Adam Granduciel’s expansive vocals. Going back to the band’s “Wagonwheel Blues” and “Slave Ambient,” Granduciel excels at the sonic sprawl that might spin out of control in lesser hands.
The War on Drugs — Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel has been moving away from Americana and towards a luminous, indefinite textural art since Wagonwheel Blues in 2008, and by now the only tenuous link to the obligatory Springsteen/Dylan references is his raspy voice, here buried under the preternatural glow of guitars and synths. Lost in the Dream continues Slave Ambient’s trajectory, threading wispy, half-spoken melodies through emerald forests of tone, ducking conventions like riff and hook in favor of edgeless, shapeless sensuality. These are songs that drive off into dune-like landscapes, always in motion, never arriving.
The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) Given the Garcia/Weir split of the War on Drugs, wherein departed longhair Kurt Vile once interwove lysergic epiphanies with co-captain Adam Granduciel, this Philly-by-way-of-Oakland trio gives as good as it gets. Lost in the Dream matches last year's Wakin' on a Pretty Daze from Vile riff for riff. War on Drugs' third LP grooves smootherfastercleaner than its somewhat slumped predecessor Slave Ambient as Granduciel's plaintive, young-Dylan emoting recasts Dead-like guitar lyricism into modern digital liquidity evoking Eighties electro-pop.