On the new War on Drugs album, singer/songwriter/bandleader
Adam Granduciel seems to be channeling a lot of things, all of them good. The
Boss and Dylan are the usual recognizable suspects in his slow, bluesy,
psychedelic indie-meets-’80s-rock and nonchalant, nasal vocals. But The
Grateful Dead’s legacy makes a surprise appearance here and there as well, with
some meandering, country-fried jamming underpinning the solid songwriting, such
as on the piano-heavy “I Was There.”
Slave Ambient is slower paced and more methodical in
many ways than The War on Drugs’ stunning 2008 debut, Wagonwheel Blues.
It retains some of the latter’s ambient noise wash, a clear nod to bands like
Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, spaced in between and in the midst of
songs. And there are a few memorable barnstormers like the driving “Baby
Missiles” and the snare-cracking “Your Love is Calling My Name,” a song that
picks up where Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” left off.
But Granduciel seems less concerned with individual tracks
than with creating a holistic atmosphere, a tactic not often played in the
current climate of blog-friendly one-offs. In other words, this is an album
best listened to from start to finish, as the songs bleed into one another,
creating an inexorably moody audio experience. Once again, The War on Drugs
have crafted an album of the year, built not upon flash or novelty, but a new
take on traditional rock and roll that is always pushing forward.
Missiles,” “Brothers” JONAH FLICKER