The War on Drugs demonstrated their trademark mix of weary vocals and highly polished rock during a performance of “Pain” on The Tonight Show on Monday. The single became the band’s first Number One hit last week when it climbed to the top spot on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs Airplay chart.
On The Tonight Show, lead singer Adam Granduciel displayed his mastery of late Seventies, early Eighties rock and roll. “Pain” has a crisp backbeat, steady but never pushy, and lots of pretty, pealing lead guitar. During the bridge, Granduciel played a flashy, distorted solo, pulling expertly at his whammy bar. His lyrics hinted at the life of a hopeless dreamer. “I resist what I cannot change,” he sang. “And I wanna find what can’t be found.”
“Pain” appeared on A Deeper Understanding last August. While working on the album, Granduciel attempted to channel the work of Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen and others. “It feels like [Springsteen] spent forever on every song,” Granduciel told Rolling Stone admiringly. “He’s working on telling stories. It just made me want to keep pushing.”
Granduciel’s efforts paid off: A Deeper Understanding received a nomination for Best Rock Album at the Grammys, which take place later this month.