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CD of The Week

Week of 8/28/17

    The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)

    When I agreed to write this review of A Deeper Understanding, LP4  from Philadelphia's favorite sons The War On Drugs, my most apparent obstacle was deciding when to dive into the 10-track, 66 minute album. Along with much of their growing fanbase, I had quickly digested the multiple singles that were released over the last two months. While this practice was surely enjoyable, to understand this band is to listen to their records as a whole. I decided to save my first full spin for a road trip up the New Jersey Turnpike this past weekend. Nothing like a few hundred miles of driving in ideal late-summer weather to dive into what many had already deemed the next great American rock-n-roll record. Perrrrrrrrrrrrrfecttttt!

    The energetic kickoff track "Up All Night" starts with a peppy Bruce Hornsby-esque keyboard part that suddenly made the 77 degree sunshine feel one hue brighter and the breeze sifting through the sunroof a touch crisper. When the band drops in at the 1:13 mark, it is nearly impossible to not be drawn in in a truly arresting way. A sonically joyous start, paying homage to Steve Winwood's 1986 Back In the High Life album, continues with the lyrical themes central to Adam Granduciel's wordsmithing. Danceable music with words of the alienation brought by self-doubt in a relationship, this track personifies the juxtaposition of true love unlike any song of recent memory. A smile comes to my face and before I knew it the now-familiar slow-burner "Thinking of A Place" is up in the 7th spot. Where did the last 30 some-odd minutes go from that engulfing swell in "Up All Night?" Was there a touch of Petty, a splash of post-Eagles Henley and guitar swells as uplifting as any notes Neil Young ever put to tape via his signature white Falcon? Of course, Granduciel and co's body of work is nothing if not a brilliant sum of their influences. Never at any one time does the best The War On Drugs has to offer feel to be imitating the innovators of yore as they themselves are now setting the pace amongst their peers. These songs are a multi-layered testament to the phrase "in the pocket", each tune chugging along like a varied tempo-ed freight train but never getting ahead of itself. By the time "Clean Living" takes us down Rt. 66 to the shores of Bruce's lonely Asbury Park, the spark the main character is looking for in the dark is as bright as a phoenix. As the late morning slipped into early afternoon's peak, so went the last notes of "You Don't Have To Go". Granduciel bellows "Now I'm home, and it's clear you're gone" and a few notes later there's nothing left but the silence at end of a modern masterpiece.

    I wasn't sure what to do as there was still many more miles to be driven that day, with so much to process from hearing A Deeper Understanding. Naturally I started the record again, and 1:13 in the path taken and the stretch ahead seemed a little clearer. Time took over, Mother Nature provided the light, and the road trip of life continued along like the rumble of an album destined for immortality.

    The War on Drugs return to Philly for a homecoming show at the Dell Music Center on September 21st, which doubles as Connor Barwin's annual Make The World Better Foundation benefit concert.
    Review by Jersey Dan

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