It’s fair to say the fifth album from The War On Drugs is eagerly awaited. Their recent albums have distilled a sort of adult-oriented classic rock. It’s a sound so rich that you can overdose on it and then you won’t be able to face it for a long time. And so it is, four years after their last album, the band returns with another reference-filled feast.
It opens with Living Proof, a quiet, relaxed strum, though the solemn piano crafts this as the type of sunlit, moody track that used to sit midway through an album like this. The band resist the temptation to hit the ‘lift-off’ button on this track, instead, we get gorgeously restrained electric guitar. We do get lift-off with the cheesy, road-tripping Harmonia’s Dream, which is based around a steady beat and a synth solo, dropping in some gorgeous guitar towards the end. Some Smiths-like guitar does battle with Bruce Hornsby-style piano on the very middle of the road Change. If you can get your head around that, you might have the key to getting into this album, it can be enjoyed on a couple of levels.
It’s hard not to cackle at the drum machine that introduces I Don’t Wanna Wait, sounding exactly the same as Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. It starts out moody before the enormous drums and keyboards kick in. Victim will have you playing ‘air keyboard’ again, just like several tracks on their previous album A Deeper Understanding. Here Adam Granduciel sings exactly like Phil Collins in 1986. Close your eyes and it could be something off Genesis’ Invisible Touch album.
The title track is really cheesy but in a good way. It’s the sound of the late 80s, slick Wall Street suits, Don Henley/Johnson, lines of cocaine… you get the picture, but those guitars, they just hit the sweet spot! Yes, you think Bette Davis’ Eyes by Kim Carnes. You feel like hitting the freeway in an open-top car. Well, the N3 to Blanchardstown might do.
Old Skin takes the intensity down momentarily, before building to a punch-the-air midsection. Wasted is a minor misstep, dialling up the chirpiness at the expense of any real feeling. The relatively brief Rings Around My Father’s Eyes is one of the few tracks here to escape the cheesy keyboards. Probably the least derivative song, it feels effortless and soulful, the music remaining understated to allow Granduciel to put in a fine vocal performance. The album ends with Occasional Rain, a track dominated by gorgeous interlocking guitars.
This collection is not really breaking new ground for this band, other than it’s probably their most synth-filled album. Yes, Adam Granduciel really needs to get over himself, but I suspect their legion of fans are ready for more of this. You should be too.
I Don’t Live Here Anymore: