Album review: The War On Drugs, “Lost In The Dream”By Dylan Owens | March 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
The name “The War On Drugs” can evoke the band in two images depending on your emphasis. First, as political musicians, probably critical of how our government allocates its resources. In this scenario, they spread the word with the power chords, not-so-subtle lyrical jabs and mid-set diatribes on the hypocritical agendas of “The Man.” Second, “The War…On Drugs,” paints them as jokesters, putting a teenage spin on a button-down politico phrase.
However, while Adam Granduciel has spoken on the subject in at least one interview, The War on Drugs is not a political band. As their new album testifies, they are an unabashed classic rock band, whose last psych-tinged effort, “Slave Ambient,” made it sound clear they’ve got no beef with mind-altering substances.
“Lost In The Dream” relies less on these dissociative filters, instead lifting the vocals closer to the surface and letting the songs do the talking. Granduciel stated in interviews that the record is a product of a dark year in his life, but despite some of the song’s titles (“Disappearing,” “The Haunting Idle”), if you don’t already feel like crying, you probably won’t. That’s because even at its most morose, (probably “Suffering”) the album never dips below a sway-worthy tempo. Sonically, it’s maybe an ’80s classic rock band’s idea of heartsick—just slower rock—but it never approaches the Band of Horses-level depths of other modern indie rock.
Granduciel has taken notes from his usual suspects—Springsteen, Petty, Dylan—for style of sentiment as well as sound. Over an inspirational acoustic rock rhythm on “Eyes To The Wind,” he likens his retreat to a train in reverse, before asking in the chorus: “Have you fixed your eyes to the wind / Will you let it pull you in again?” Like so many songs on the album, it captures that odd balance between sadly sentimental and chin-up, or on Petty’s terms, “Wildflowers” and “Won’t Back Down.” Opening track “Under The Pressure,” the album’s at it’s Springsteen-ian best, pulls the same feat in as glorious of an 80s ballad you’ll get this side of Alf. This is the album’s “Thunder Road,” and its moments of melodrama snap into place as snug as a leather jacket over jeans on Granduciel, by a wind-swept church in some far away desert.
It’s not just because of the preponderance of the sound that “Lost In The Dream” double-underlines and asterisks The War On Drugs as classic rock band. More than any mode it’s assumed over the course of its career, the band sounds natural in this space, bashing out ballads that are on par with some of that era’s downtempo gems. No matter what decade your taste formed around, “Lost In The Dream” is a worthy if nostalgic listen that’ll likely have you retracing its musical steps well after its run its course.
See photos of The War On Drugs at the Bluebird Theater in 2012 below:
Dylan Owens is Reverb’s all-purpose news blogger and album reviewer. You can read more from him in Relix magazine and the comment sections of WORLDSTARHIPHOP.