War On Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues

January 01, 1970

(Secretly Canadian)



Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs aren’t easy to pigeonhole,
and that’s a plus when so many new bands sound “new” by tweaking their favorite
style from the past. In the tension between grand ambition and mid-fi
recording, The War On Drugs are definitely indie-rock, but the touchstones for Wagonwheel Blues, their debut, come from
unexpected sources.


Adam Granduciel pens florid, expressionistic lyrics and
sings them with a poet’s fervor: the way he comes down hard on vowels at the
end of lines is blatantly Dylanesque, but the quaver in his voice also recalls
Mike Scott of the Waterboys. The blast of harmonica that opens the album also
cues Dylan connections, but Granduciel and fellow multi-instrumentalist Kurt
Vile, helped occasionally by others, are also fond of shimmering drones, most
prominently displayed on the My Bloody Valentine meets Velvet Underground
layers of guitars in the ambling ten-minutes of “Show Me The Coast.” A song
like “There Is No Urgency” could be off-putting in its prophetic proclamations,
but it’s refreshing to hear a band going for grandeur, and hitting the mark.


Standout Tracks: “Arms
Like Boulders,” “Buenos Aires Beach”  STEVE KLINGE



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