maandag 31 maart 2014

Lost in the dream. The War on Drugs

Every time I read something about The War on Drugs recently, there are two things I'm reminded off: Kurt Vile played in the band and that the previous album 'Slave ambient' was such a great album. Now I came close to reviewing Kurt Vile's latest record, but just did not like it enough to make the effort and I didn't like 'Slave ambient' at all. There just didn't seem to happen too much. Still, I decided to give Lost in the dream a chance anyway and that is something I do not regret one bit. There is a lot going on on Lost in the dream. A lot that sounds somewhat familiar, but tickles in several, but not all, right places.

The War on Drugs is around since 2005 when the band started in Philadelphia. There are four band members and there are more ex-members than members by now, but those are all ex-drummers and Kurt Vile of course. In 2014 the band consists of Adam Granduciel, vocals, guitars, harmonica, keyboards, samplers; Dave Hartley, bass guitar, electric guitars; Robbie Bennett, keyboards, piano, guitars and Patrick Berkery, drums, percussion. Granduciel is the main man, responsible for writing the songs and the singing. The music is stately, grand, the sound full. Not necessarily because of the number of instruments used, no, because of the wide mix, filling up the whole range. The mix makes Lost in the dream sound very official and darkish.

My main objection to Lost in the dream is that the album has very much the same atmosphere and songs are interchangeable. But by listening more intensely, things do change. In 'An ocean between the waves' a million things happen during the 7.00 minutes the song lasts. The tempo, the intensity go up. Dire Straits makes an appearance in the guitar playing. There is a different effect, some slight phasing or other, then on Mark Knopfler's guitar, but the playing wouldn't have sounded bad on 'Sultans of swing' or 'Skateaway'.

The sound of Lost in the dream is made up out of these long notes, close to soundscapes. Guitar notes that are repeated with the help of a delay pedal. This is definitely music that I am not in the mood for every day. Not unlike The Cure I realise. The typical guitar playing of The Cure is absent, but the sound and texture are very much like these 80s icons.The songs are kept up for longer periods also, so last a bit longer than strictly necessary as far as I am concerned. However, when I'm the mood, they can't last long enough. At those time I hear the influences of Bob as well as Jacob Dylan in his The Wallflowers first album period. At the bottom of The War on Drugs there is a folk and Dylan bedding. 'Eyes to the wind' is a Bob and Jacob Dylan song as far as I'm concerned, played in a way that the two Dylans would never have recorded it. It's the melody and in the twists Adam Granduciel puts into his voice. One of the major surprises is when on 'The hunting idle' and in the intro of the following 'Burning' The War on Drugs does a Pink Floyd. The songs are somewhat inconsistent with everything that went before. At the same time it fits this album. When 'Burning' turns into an 'I'm on fire' rhythm and sound kind of song, all my doubts about Lost in the dream flare up again. Too 80s pop for me. As a balance I put 'Suffering' back on and all things are well again in the realm of The War on Drugs.

When I look at Lost in the dream from a distance, at a later point in time the album can go two ways with me. Either it will grow or it will be discarded. Time will tell. In the past few weeks I've played The War on Drug's latest record quite regularly and there is no need to think that I will stop doing so in the near future.


You can listen to 'Red eyes' here.

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