The opening volley of The War On Drugs new LP, A Deeper Understanding, sets the stage for everything that comes after it. At first sounding like a track off The Black Keys last album, when the drums kick in on ‘Up All Night’ this CD cranks into overdrive. A fully fuzzed out guitar solo becomes positively stratospheric. A Deeper Understanding, most definitely! One of the things that sets this disc apart is the sense of dynamics at play. Huge songs become even bigger, while softer numbers shift in unexpected ways.
Much of this CD is etched with a sadness that comes from loving too much, too hard or not in the way that was expected. The album gets its title from a line in ‘’Pain’, “Pull me close and let me hold you in, Give me a deeper understanding of who I am.” Confusion is always close by, after all, what if anything makes sense about love?
Opening with a truly haunted organ, ‘Thinking Of A Place’ takes on a melancholy tone as the guitar and drums provide focus, featuring a truly great guitar solo, not fast, but from a heartfelt place, cutting through the pain. At eleven minutes and ten seconds, the track feels like it’s over in an instant. That’s a tough trick to pull off, but again and again that’s exactly what Adam Granduciel and company do.
There’s an almost Springsteen-ian wall of sound to the record; instruments jump out of the mix, bowling you over, pounding you into submission. Yet both protagonist and listener get up ready to be knocked down again. That’s where the beauty of this album is, in how it takes the familiar and puts it in a context that makes it both familiar and fresh.
Surrounded and enveloped, A Deeper Understanding washes over the listener, and once you’ve started the ride there’s no getting off. Sucked into a soundtrack to love and heartbreak, listening intently, riding the waves. Granduciel may not always be confident in where he stands but he keeps rising to the occasion
In the battle that rages for the heart and the soul, The War On Drugs clearly chooses the path of love. The drive to find a deep understanding strikes a chord in all of us. Granduciel and company have set it to music and we are all the better for their efforts.
Words: Bob Fish