‘More of the same’ is a common musical chirp wielded by “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” Anthony Fantano. Eyes rolling, hands in the air, he’s used the label to dull releases from Future Islands and ODESZA, and despite the initial urge to rush to their defense, it’s hard to counter.
New Future Islands sounds like old Future Islands. ODESZA will always sound like metal clattering through a rain storm. The alternative, and what Fantano must be looking for, is musical reinvention, exemplified best by Childish Gambino, who with his most recent album, Awaken My Love, vaulted himself from nasally rapper to bonafide soul-king.
The War on Drugs’ latest release, A Deeper Understanding (2017) is no sonic revolution. We hear the familiar sounds of dad rock – delay pedals, fuzzy guitars and Adam Granduciel’s crooning voice. Unsurprisingly, Fantano isn’t having it. But having induced a nostalgic fervor with their last album, Lost In The Dream (2014), it’s possible that when it comes to The War on Drugs, more of the same is exactly what we want.
On A Deeper Understanding, frontman, Adam Granduciel, takes more musical risks and we travel further into the band’s sonic headspace, a place mired by pain.
“I met a man with a broken back / he had a fear in his eyes I could understand.”
Many tracks surpass the six minute mark, a holy metric for classic rock songs with dizzying solos, easy to fill, but difficult to pull off. Nonetheless, Granduciel goes for greater heights, unafraid to scrape the zenith of his guitar playing abilities.
But the true potential of A Deeper Understanding may be in its reception. Just warranting a review on The Needle Drop is an odd form of recognition – whether the review is good or bad, people notice. So much so that The War on Drugs are launching into the mainstream, inhabiting places like 107.7 “The Bone” and 98.9 WCLZ, where Granduciel will continue tapping into their main source of power – nostalgia.