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Breaking: The War on Drugs

August 6, 2008 5:40 PM ET

Who: Lo-fi folk-rock quintet from Philadelphia featuring Adam Granduciel of the Capitol Years and guitarist Kurt Vile, who releases solo records boasting stunning fuzzed-out guitar jams.

Sounds Like: Bob Dylan cranking out jams with Sonic Youth. Granduciel, whose adenoidal croon eerily recalls the Bard's, has a knack for penning cryptic ruminations on life, death and hitting the road. "There's a song you hear on the radio/ It's a funeral march," he sings on "Arms Like Boulders." "So you change the channel/ But it's all you hear/ As you're driving up the 101 from Mexico to California." Meanwhile, his band turns spacey noise-blues epics that sometimes stretch on beyond the 10-minute mark.

Vital Stats:

• In his spare time, Granduciel, 29, works as a maintenance man, cleaning out houses of college students at Drexel University in Philadelphia. "Most of the time, the kids leave tons of shit behind them," he says. "Sometimes I've found good shit. We got a drum set and a PA system last year. And I could have, like, 50 microwaves if I wanted to at this point."

• Granduciel honed his writing chops when he and a pal started writing their own dictionary, which featured bits of poetry alongside more traditional definitions of words. "Some of the material is great," says Granduciel. "There's a lot of great lines and good phrases in there. And some of it was nonsense."

• Granduciel credits his mother with helping him shape his band's sound. As a kid, she turned him onto Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison records. "She didn't really listen to too much else," he says. "Dylan's whole catalog is amazing but I particularly love Highway 61 Revisited and Street Legal."

Hear It Now: The War on Drugs' Wagonwheel Blues is out now. Click above for a live, unplugged performance of "Arms Like Boulders."

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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