‘A Deeper Understanding’ is a completely compelling piece of work from The War On Drugs and deserves the attention of music lovers everywhere.
The War On Drugs simply put is a band that pulls from nostalgia and maintains consistency through a cross-generational sound. The Philadelphia grown band is headed by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile. Their origin story is much like you would think, they met at a party in 2003 and quickly realized they shared a passion for the late-great Bob Dylan. In 2005, the duo wrote enough songs to launch a band, and the result was The War On Drugs. Granduciel and Vile have crafted a band that projects a version of your parent’s favorite musicians from the mid-80s, but approached with delicacy and care. This album is accurately named in the sense that it provokes you to wonder in thought and think about the context of its lyrics. It may be why it received a Grammy in 2017 for Best Rock Album and gained critical acclaim across the industry. ‘A Deeper Understanding’ is a subtle flex from The War On Drugs, proving that the genre can be romanticized and energetic at the same time without losing the character of rock n roll.
When I found ‘A Deeper Understanding,’ it was like pulling a dusty vinyl out of a stack of records in the corner of a thrift store. The sound is vintage but infiltrated with sounds from the modern world and the combination is infectious. Each song is crafted with thought and grooves right until the very end. In a way it’s like Tom Petty covering Springsteen, and like you are drowning in the sound. The War On Drugs are slightly like a chameleon in the world of rock n roll, which is completely their own take on a decades old genre just masked behind the greats that came before them.
The tracks, ‘Up All Night’ and its sadder sister ‘Pain’ open up the 10 song album. With just a listen of these two songs, you can get a feeling for how the rest of the album will evolve. Don’t be fooled though, the band’s most explosive songs are yet to come. ‘The Strangest Thing’ and ‘Nothing To Find’ are where things pick up pace. Every instrument jells together as not to overpower the other and then meshed perfectly with the echoing vocals of Granduciel. It is like Granduciel knows what you want him to sing before you hear it and every second is grappled with the anticipation of hearing the chorus. Doing that is hard and The War On Drugs do it with ease.
The last song on the album is ‘You Don’t Have To Go.’ A dim ember compared to the burning fire that is this album, but also it is the perfect way to end ‘A Deeper Understanding.’ The end of the song blasts you with the familiar sound you’ve come to enjoy from The War On Drugs before gently simmering away. If you restart the album from the beginning upon its conclusion, it seems to fit perfectly and then truly just maybe you don’t have to go.