Release Date: Aug 16, 2011
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Review Summary: Americana, broken into a hundred tiny pieces.I can call Slave Ambient rain music and not feel bad about it. Unlike the kind of music you’d usually tag for the rain, the sad stuff, it is a completely drenched record, taking its worn lyrics and pouring down on them. The War on Drugs has, in this sense, always been an intriguing band, able to do more than simply complement their lyrics with music.
It’s amazing how many various genres are captured on one record so cohesively. Slave Ambient opens in a hazy, almost shoegaze style (“Best Night”), continues into straight-up ’60s folk rock—harmonica included—with a twist (“I Was There”) and even reaches a full-on ’80s-inspired dance party (“Your Love Is Calling My Name,” “Baby Missiles”). Similar to its other releases, the band masters even the several lyric-less shorter tracks serving as musical intermissions scattered sporadically throughout.
Slidin'. Ramblin'. Driftin'. Movin'. Strugglin'. The War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel is all of these things on Slave Ambient, the Philly outfit's second full-length release. Given these professed feelings of restlessness and uneasiness, it's no surprise the band's hypno-roots-rock is all ….
After four years of planning and recording, Philadelphia’s the War on Drugs has released a follow-up to its 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues. Since the first album, Kurt Vile has departed the band to pursue his own music to great success with his two Matador albums. The man behind the War on Drugs, Vile’s good friend and touring companion, Adam Granduciel pursues a similar vein of American rock, fueled by obvious Dylan and Springsteen love, then rounded out with German and British influences, motorik and shoegaze.
Review by Matthew Fiander.
Lennon and McCartney. Jagger and Richards. Even Barat and Doherty. In rock n’ roll, the most iconic partnerships are the ones that complement each other without tarnishing each other’s individual attributes. Once they’ve said enough under the same brand, its best to part ways and call it a ….
This was the year the War on Drugs won. Not only did the Philadelphia band fulfil the promise of their debut Wagonwheel Blues, but their former guitarist Kurt Vile scored with his own excellent album, Smoke Ring for my Halo. Slave Ambient makes a triumph of the unlikely premise that US heartland rock and Krautrock would mix like old friends – it is the sound, if you like, of the Neu! Street Band.
It’s easy to be comforted by something familiar. It’s just as easy to be repelled by something imitating familiarity. The fine line between nostalgic and kitsch, sentimental and mawkish, yup and nope is one newer bands tread on the regular. A friendly, recognizable sound at an album’s doorstep is perfect way inside, but at the first hint of derivative dissembling, we’ll cry “impostor!”, turn on our heels/blog about how fake it is.
On their third album, the War on Drugs essentially continue to stake out their own particular patch of ground in 21st century rock & roll with an indie bent, nodding in equal parts toward older traditions and newer ones with a difference of two decades in between them, captured right down to the cover art, which is pretty much a companion piece to the art on their second album Future Weather. On the one hand, there's still a sense of world-weary wisdom and lost Americana as such at work from the start, as the extended breakdown toward the end of "Best Night" demonstrates, all silvery guitar jamming and sparkling piano following from Adam Granduciel's reedy singing. At the same time the diffuse qualities of feedback, psychedelic glaze, and textural experimentation via everything that fed into what became shoegaze (not to mention shoegaze itself) remain key, audible in the opening chimes of "Brothers" and "It's Your Destiny"'s spaced-out and exultant flow, perhaps most notably on the short instrumentals "Original Slave" and "Come for It.
One of the key conditions with anthemic rock is that it do just what it should: drums thump, guitars are strummed to a feverish climax and choruses take us up the stratosphere. Even artful practitioners Arcade Fire and the master craftsman Springsteen follow these guidelines to a degree, carving their own particular niche around these hard and fast rules. So what happens when the anthems do the unexpected? The War On Drugs's second album offers a particular example.
If this lot are attempting to wage war, it seems that at the moment the drugs are still very much winning. At points the Philly three-piece offer up some hypnotic, Bunnymen-esque basslines ([b]‘Come To The City’[/b]), at others a vocal taken straight from Dylan’s own larynx ([b]‘Brothers’[/b]).The wonderful [b]‘Baby Missiles’[/b] comes on like [b]‘Keep The Car Running’[/b] crossed with classic Springsteen, yet following track [b]‘Original Slave’[/b] is an unadulterated psychedelic wig-out. There are so many distinct yet intertwined influences peppered throughout [b]‘Slave Ambient’[/b] it would be remarkably easy to lose the thread altogether.
The War on Drugs are, mostly, the divinely named Adam Granduciel, a long-haired Philadelphian with a knack for bringing together notionally disparate rock realms. He sounds like Bob Dylan or Tom Petty when he sings – laconic, nasal, matter of fact – but his songs thrum and drone and hum like, well, loose ambient rock. "Your Love is Calling My Name" is a propulsive krautrock groover and one of the highlights of the War on Drugs's second album proper.
THE WAR ON DRUGS play the Drake on August 24. See listing Rating: NNN It's not often you come across a band that inspires comparisons to both Tom Petty and Neu!, but on Slave Ambient the War on Drugs come up with a synthesis of classic Americana and ambient groove and somehow make it sound natural. Little Dire Straits-inspired guitar licks pop up here and there, often hidden behind droning synths and unchanging, motorik drumbeats.
For their sophomore album, Philadelphia’s the War on Drugs continues in the vein of 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, combining shoegaze and drone with jangly heartland rock that would be immediately reminiscent of prime-era Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers even if singer Adan Granduciel couldn’t replicate Petty’s tone and phrasing to an uncanny tee. Overcast but unmistakably warm, Slave Ambient comes on like a rainy summer day in the rust belt, its handsome, folk-inflected rock tunes commingling with layers of ambient noise. Sprawling jams like “Best Night” or “Your Love Is Calling My Name” function like family reunions, where blue-collar rock offers a handshake and then a hug to its effete, art-schooled offspring.
War On Drugs released its debut, Wagonwheel Blues, in 2008 and hasn’t come out with a record since. That’s because 2008 was also the year when the group, billed as the creative vehicle for frontman Adam Granduciel, lost three of its founding members, including Kurt Vile, a guy who’s doing quite well on his own right now. Since then, Granduciel has rebuilt the group as a trio and began working on material for a sophomore LP that reaches us this month in the form of Slave Ambient.
A jumble of styles, but delivered with great heart and plenty of memorable tunes. Lou Thomas 2011 Musicians with an identity crisis can produce astonishing, innovative works of majesty just as easily as they can cacophonous, impotent drivel. For every prime-time Prince, fearlessly smashing genres together to effortlessly create new sounds, there are thousands of lesser mortals convinced that their country-meets-drill‘n’bass hybrid is the future of music.
In recent years, it has become something of a tradition whenever my parents come to visit for me and my dad to go out for a drive so that I can crank the stereo up loud and expose him to some new music that I think he might like. The stuff I play for him is always carefully chosen based on the tastes he developed as a teenager in the 60s and has stuck doggedly with ever since. Last time, for example, we rocked the Tame Impala album - which we both agreed sounded like a modern update of Cream's psychedelic pop - and some Fleet Foxes, which – as I suspected – reminded him of CSNY.
No one ever said music had to be about one specific medium, with no prospect for branching out. I mean, if we took music and really tried to conform it into something both rigid and controlled then there’d be no room for it to breathe. So, when someone can channel both the forlorn voice of Tom Petty and the bare roots exposure of singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, there’s already going to be Bob Dylan somewhere in there, too.