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Album Review
A Deeper Understanding

A Deeper Understanding
by The War On Drugs

Atlantic Records

Review Date
28th August 2017
Reviewed by
Gerry Le Roux

After the breakout commercial and critical success of 2014's Lost in a Dream and the band’s subsequent signing to a major label, it’s no overstatement to call A Deeper Understanding one of the most anticipated albums of the year. The War On Drugs openly embrace their major label status here – while their trademark yearning vocals, fried guitar solos, Bruce Hornsby pianos and motorik rhythmic motives are still largely in place, the sound is cleaner, brighter and bigger in every sense. This helps open up the songs, yet unavoidably also takes away some of the stoned mystique of earlier albums.

Frontman Adam Granduciel’s infatuation with Dylan-esque Americana (‘You Don’t Have To Go’) and middle-of-the-road 80s rock (‘Clean Living’ is the best Bryan Adams song Adams never wrote) remain evident, while the greater contribution of all members of the six-piece band shows through in the immaculate musicianship and attention to detail. A Deeper Understanding can best be described as unhurried – lead single ‘Thinking of a Place’ is the longest song the band has ever recorded; a lovely piece of music (complete with harmonica solo) that justifies its 11 minute playing time. The songs never sound rushed, with tracks like ‘Pain’ and ‘Strangest Thing’ meandering along beautifully.

The fact that the album leaves you feeling slightly underwhelmed merely underlines the huge expectations we place on the band. While it doesn’t quite deliver the surprise knock-out blow of its predecessor, A Deeper Understanding is still a very solid entry in The War On Drugs discography.


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