Music Reviews
Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs Lost In The Dream

(Secretly Canadian) Rating - 8/10

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. And they most certainly have created something special over the 15 months or so the album took to piece together.

Album opener Under The Pressure opens to strange ticking, like a spinning coin before developing into a beat not a million miles away from Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Reverb guitars ladened with delay, a piano melody, saxophone and electric guitar then combine with swirling synths to create the backdrop for his soft husky vocals. As before, there are similarities with veteran American rockers Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty throughout. The mid tempo beat of the beautiful Eyes To The Wind could easily adorn a Springsteen album, with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Bob Dylan or Mark Knopfler amidst a slide guitar delivered with a country-tinged voice. Likewise, the faster Burning sounds like a coming together of Springsteen and Dire Straits, its synths providing harmonious chord structures that provide a canvas for his vocals and guitar, along with Hammond organ touches.

The reverb guitar returns for the slow, serene Suffering, and the tones are so like Vile it’s almost as if his guitars and amps have been borrowed for the song. The title track features another vocal delivery in the style of Dylan for a mellow effort, whilst The Haunting Idle uses reverb to create an eery, atmospheric soundscape straight from a movie soundtrack. Disappearing benefits from subtle, sublime flecks of electric guitar, harmonica and echoing drumbeat alongside more swirling synths and short, repetitive piano melody. Album closer In Reverse shimmers into life gradually like a flower awakening on a spring morning before almost-spoken vocals appear with delightful piano, leading to a conclusion of synth swirls.

Granduciel apparently spent hours going over and over tracks as they were developed from their demo stage into full blown band pieces, occasionally completely abandoning latter versions to return to the demos, and that was the case with album standout track An Ocean In Between The Waves - it looks like an inspired decision. Opening to an up tempo drumbeat, reverb guitars are again a major ingredient, but this time the guitaring reaches epic heights for one of the songs of the year so far; the dextrous soloing appearing at various stages throughout its seven minutes , reaching a superb finale that sits up there with the very best Knopfler ever achieved. The similarly paced Red Eyes is another gem that again recalls Dire Straits and Springsteen: acoustic guitar strums along in the background with synths whilst bursts of brilliant electric guitar pepper the track.

The ever industrious band have recently completed an Australian tour and are currently performing numerous dates throughout March, April and May in their home country; if that wasn’t exhaustive enough, they then head on to Europe for more shows. Whilst Granduciel may not have had the easiest of rides since Slave Ambient, it’s clearly not going to get any easier. But with Lost In The Dream set to soar in an even bigger way, the future is a thrilling one for band and fans alike.