There are too many Bob Dylan references to count in “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the latest arena-ready single from the War on Drugs. Some are lyrical nods to beloved songs like “Shelter From The Storm,” “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and “Standing in the Doorway.” Others are even more on-the-nose, like the moment where Adam Granduciel’s narrator gets caught up in nostalgia over a Never Ending Tour gig: “Like when we went to see Bob Dylan/We danced to ‘Desolation Row.'”
But the key Dylan fan-fiction moment arrives when the first chorus hits and Lucius’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig join in on vocals, conjuring the campy majesty of Carolyn Dennis and Queen Esther Marrow on “Tight Connection to My Heart.” Laessig and Wolf overtake Granduciel’s main vocal melody with a hook as potent as anything the band have ever come up with.
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is just the latest iteration of the Philadelphia band’s stupefyingly resonant thesis that their pantheon of classic-rock heroes (Dylan, Springsteen, Petty) made better music in the Eighties and Nineties than in the Seventies. As Granduciel put it a few years ago, “The number of people that are now referencing Eighties Dylan is pretty remarkable.” This time around, the song title expands the frame of reference with a play on the late-Seventies hit “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by Rose Royce (covered later by Madonna).
Granduciel has never been necessarily known for his writerly craftsmanship, and “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is no different, with its sophomoric similes (“Time surrounds me like an ocean/My memories like waves”). Despite this being the most War on Drugs-y song the band has ever released, there’s an unmistakable thrill to “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” It’s the sound of a band reveling in their own pastiche, a band that’s never been more sure of what it does best.