Words by Russell Carstens

On A Deeper Understanding, Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs is determined to get somewhere. He’ll use any means to reach his destination: journeys on the road, inner awakenings from deep self-reflection … whatever it takes, as he laments, “Sometimes I lay in the dark/Just to see if I can hear the stars.” In a way, he’s carrying on the spirit of Neil Young’s approach: Granduciel doesn’t need to write never-before-heard vocal melodies. No, the vibe of his simplicity is more than sufficient for transcendence. A Deeper Understanding, like the rest of the band’s catalogue, is a deeply poignant mixture of sincere nostalgia and the anticipation of a wide-open, promising future where our destinies are in our hands.

When Granduciel sings, “The beauty and the pain/It’s the strangest thing,” he’s accepted the ups and downs of life, as if he’s liberating listeners by telling them, “Embrace it, you’re gonna be dust in the end anyway. You may as well get beaten up.” Bells of optimism chime in just the right spot; swells of pedal steel guitar peak, reflecting brief glimpses of hard-to-reach emotional highs; and oceans of synths carry you into the tide under a bright orange sunset.

This music gets directly to the center of the human condition. However much that sounds like pseudo-mysticism, trust me, it’s true. Granduciel’s vision provides hope that there’s always a light at the end of every tunnel. If you’re on the cusp of a life change, or big decision, listen to A Deeper Understanding. You’ll find the answer you’ve been seeking.

The War On Drugs
‘A Deeper Understanding’
Atlantic Records
© August 25, 2017



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