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If You Don't Know Who "The War On Drugs" Is, Get Familiar

The War on Drugs played a sold-out show at Chicago Theatre last night, and have another one tonight, and I'm out in sunny, crime-riddled Los Angeles missing them.

And it sucks. 

I know I'm late to the party on this band, (so don't kill me hipsters) but I still feel like not enough people know about them.

So I'm giving them the "Get Familiar" treatment.

Past "Get Familiar" blogs - The Black Pumas 

and Cannons

The band hails from Philadelphia, PA. Don't hold that against them.

Adam Granduciel is the main man behind the War on Drugs. He draws his influences from Dylan, Petty, and Springsteen (he named his first son Bruce.)

In 2017 their album, A Deeper Understanding, won the Grammy for Best Rock Album. 

After the win, they began working on their new album. 

Granduciel, bassist Dave Hartley, and multi-instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca retreated to a studio in upstate New York where they jammed and cut demos while working outside the traditional roles they occupy on stage.

Over the next three years, the War on Drugs worked on the album in seven studios around the world, including famed rooms like Electric Lady in New York and Sound City in Los Angeles. Granduciel worked closely on the album with co-producer/engineer Shawn Everett.

In 2021 the band released I Don't Live Here Anymore. And I haven't been able to stop listening to it.

Here's what Rolling Stone had to say about it.

On I Don’t Live Here Anymore, he (Granduciel) really goes all-in on his retro-rock fantasy, with sparkling synths and booming drums just as prominent as autumnal jangle. In his nostalgic utopia, the commercial categories that defined the Reagan years have eroded into a mass of vague, happy memory, so the neon-tinted elegy “Change” suggests Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on guitar and Bruce Hornsby on piano. “I Don’t Wanna Wait” is even more enticing, evoking Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” colored with ambient drones, as if Brian Eno had produced it, before morphing into something like Bob Dylan, if he’d tried to write a song that ripped off John Waite or Lou Gramm. And if you want to hear what it’d sound like if Bryan Adams had ever taken a shot at Springsteen-style working-class fatalism, “Old Skin” has you covered. The results come very close to arriving at a kind of indie yacht-rock — smooth but sad, rustic and ruffled, yet chill and pristine. Call it pontoon-rock.

If you enjoy Bob Dylan, especially 80's Dylan, this is the band for you. 

This album is infused with Dylan references and influence all over the place.

Like “Shelter From The Storm,” 

and "Change"

“It Ain’t Me Babe,” and “Standing in the Doorway” are a couple others. 

Others are even more on-the-nose, like the moment where Adam Granduciel’s narrator gets caught up in nostalgia over a Never Ending Tour gig: “Like when we went to see Bob Dylan/We danced to ‘Desolation Row.'”

But the key Dylan fan-fiction moment arrives when the first chorus hits and Lucius’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig join in on vocals, conjuring the campy majesty of Carolyn Dennis and Queen Esther Marrow on “Tight Connection to My Heart.” Laessig and Wolf overtake Granduciel’s main vocal melody with a hook as potent as anything the band have ever come up with.

On “Up All Night,” literal or metaphoric gunshots ghost the narrative, and hot-forged guitar lines push through confetti-cannon electronics. 

The restrained builds make even subtle peaks feel ecstatic, like the spine-tingling slide-guitar ascent midway through “Holding On,”

 or the squirming feedback, played by Granduciel like a hooked trout, preceding his solo on “Strangest Thing.”

 I love this band. 

If you get to see them tonight, know that I am extremely jealous. Let me know how it is.

(p.s. - Chicago Theatre is one of the best-sounding venues in the country. amazing spot to see live music)