Music Reviews
I Don't Live Here Anymore

The War on Drugs I Don't Live Here Anymore

(Atlantic) Rating - 8/10

It’s always been clear that The War on Drugs are excellent at one specific thing: sounding big as hell. Throughout the years, Adam Granduciel and the gang have floated on the power of cavernous, gorgeously-framed heartland rock. With this band, a drum fill or careening synth riff will always matter far more than any lyrical or thematic material. That isn’t a criticism either: The War on Drugs are the best at what they do for a reason, proving that the sonic architecture of a song is just as important as making a point or sharing something poetic. The sheer emotion of Granduciel’s vocals can often sell a song alone, making you forget about his worst lyrics or more forgettable songs that thrive solely on vibes. To build that sonic soundscape, the band employs anchoring acoustic guitars, hits of xylophone, and giant vocal melodies which have always been crucial to the War on Drugs recipe. Without the beautiful details, they would lose the atmosphere. Without the atmosphere, what’s the point of arena rock?

On their fifth album, entitled I Don’t Live Here Anymore, our favorite synth-rockers treat us to a satisfying serving of what we need from them. There’s moments of intrigue and change here, from the melancholic opening ballad Living Proof to the looming and tense I Don’t Want to Wait, but The War on Drugs are aware of why we listen to them. When coming to this album, we want reverb-soaked guitar leads with hints of psychedelia, roaring solos that arrive at random, Granduciel’s oversold lyrical truisms, thumping drums from Charlie Hall, and ripping, undefined climaxes that sound heaven-sent. It’s no wonder the electric guitars of Wasted are so anthemic, or the bright pianos of Victim shine through so much––they exemplify all you could ever want from this band. Shortly into the album, a manifesto is announced: “I don’t want to change, I’ll rise above,” sings Granduciel on Change, emphasizing that if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

From Old Skin to Harmonia’s Dream, I Don’t Live Here Anymore has plenty of new War on Drugs classics that will sit comfortably next to Red Eyes and Strangest Thing on a setlist. Still, the album’s best moment comes when Granduciel attempts to turn his pristine, formless sense of bigness into a timeless chorus, which we find on the album's immaculate title track. We’ve got some infamous Granduciel clunkers in the lyrics here. “Time surrounds me like an ocean/my memories like waves” is pure college poetry class, but there's something extremely moving about the chorus. When he sings, “I'm gonna walk through every doorway, I can't stop/I need some time, I need control, I need your love,” with the ethereal background vocals of Lucius supporting him, it’s one of the best musical moments of the year in both sheer size and emotional impact. Most importantly—like every other great moment on this album—it sounds fucking giant.