Review: The War on Drugs' 'A Deeper Understanding' - Rolling Stone
Home Music Album Reviews

Review: The War on Drugs Bliss Out, Go Big on ‘A Deeper Understanding’

Our take on the latest from the Dylan-loving guitar romantics

Review: The War on Drugs, 'A Deeper Understanding'Review: The War on Drugs, 'A Deeper Understanding'

The War on Drugs' fourth album is 'A Deeper Understanding.'

Philadelphia has always been known for lush music – from the richly orchestrated proto-disco Philly Sound to the kaleidoscopic psych scene that spawned the War on Drugs. Steadily widening the canvas since co-founder Kurt Vile’s departure, leader Adam Granduciel achieves full-on sonic rapture with his band’s latest LP, an abstract-expressionist mural of synth-pop and heartland rock colored by bruised optimism and some of his most generous, incandescent guitar ever.

Which is hardly to say the War on Drugs have become a
boogie-till-you-puke jam band. Granduciel is still more about layered textures
and tight-woven phrases than he is about noodling, and anxiety still lurks
under heady aural comforts, laid out in his nasal, Dylanesque vocal tones. On “Up
All Night,” literal or metaphoric gunshots ghost the narrative, and
hot-forged guitar lines push through confetti-cannon electronics. The
restrained builds make even subtle peaks feel ecstatic, like the spine-tingling
slide-guitar ascent midway through “Holding On,” or the squirming
feedback, played by Granduciel like a hooked trout, preceding his solo on “Strangest
Thing.” There and elsewhere, his leads burn magnesium-bright, the sound of
a modern, low-key guitar hero who knows just when to lay back, and when to let

In This Article: The War On Drugs


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.