Words About Music
The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”
“Lost in the Dream” is an interesting album, and here’s why: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a band combine Americana and shoegaze in such a compelling way. This is the third album from Pennsylvania act The War on Drugs, who debuted in 2008 with “Wagonwheel Blues” and cemented their name in 2011 with “Slave Ambient.” With their third album, though, they really prove to me that they’re at least a band who’s material is worth remembering. The past couple weeks, “Lost in the Dream” has received quite a bit of acclaim, drawing comparisons to everyone from Tom Petty to Bruce Springsteen to Spiritualized. I’m not personally feeling it quite that much, but I do see why people are digging on this album so much.
This album is home to some of the longest songs The War on Drugs has ever written, beginning with the staggering 9-minute opener “Under the Pressure,” which kicks off depressive theme of the album as a whole. Musically, this album packs a punch. The guitars do things that only straightforward shoegazing bands should be allowed to do, but for some reason it works incredibly well in this context. Unfortunately, I have a hard time focusing on Adam Granduciel’s lyrics because of this. I hear his mock-Bob-Dylan voice perfectly fine, but for some reason I can’t get myself to really hear the lyrics. The instrumentation almost serves as a distraction to what I imagine could be very interesting lyrics, and my fixation on this issue is what really prevents me from calling it a straightforward shoegaze album. I don’t need to know what Bilinda Butcher is saying in any of My Bloody Valentine’s songs because that’s not the focus. Here, though, it’s almost like sensory overload.
Don’t fret, though, because when the instrumentation is great, it’s really really great. It’s like a mix between Sonic Youth, Titus Andronicus, The Cure, Bruce Springsteen, Can, and Ride. If the vocal delivery was more powerful and pronounced, or maybe even more subdued with the instrumentation turned up a bit, I might be able to enjoy this more. But Granduciel’s singing voice just doesn’t grab me enough to really allow me to fully get this record. Also it sometimes borders on straight-up 80s mainstream-Americana-folk-rock throwback, and I like my rock music to be more forward thinking than that.
While I don’t love it, I do see its appeal. “Lost in the Dream” is without a doubt The War on Drugs’ most important album to date and I’m glad to see that it’s winning them so much critical acclaim. It’s a very well produced album that would sound at home in an amphitheater during the summer, perhaps in a supporting slot for My Morning Jacket. It’s a relaxing album that puts sound and atmosphere to good use, though a lot of the songs sound too similar to fully grab me or interest me. But I’m just one guy with one opinion, and even if that opinion is always 100% correct, sometimes the powers that be tend to disagree. And that’s alright.
SCORE – 7.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, Suffering, Eyes to the Wind, Burning, Lost in the Dream, In Reverse