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Friday, July 13, 2018

A Deeper Understanding

The Grammy for Best Rock Album went to The War on Drugs for A Deeper Understanding, but I didn't care much for it. It got pretty much universal acclaim, but it didn't reach out and grab me like a rock album should. Frankly, I found it boring.

Even after listening to it several times, I couldn't tell the difference between the songs. Only the first track, "Up All Night," had a catchy melody with an interesting rhythm section. The rest of the songs were long and uninteresting. Here's the thing about long songs--I'm fine with them, so far as their long for a reason. The songs on this album just seem gratuitously lengthy, as if they had to fill an album and made them stretch.

The creative mind behind The War on Drugs is Adam Granduciel. He wrote all the songs and is the vocalist. In reading about the group, I learned that he and Kurt Vile (who went solo) founded the band with Bob Dylan as their influence. I can hear that, especially with Granduciel's vocals, which are very close to Dylan's nasal whine, sometimes it seems intentionally so. And as for the sound, they kind of sound like Dylan in the '80s, not exactly his best decade.

Lyrically, Granduciel writes about heartache, mostly. Here's a sample, which is poised on the edge of good poetry and stuff a boy would write in his spiral notebook:

"Now the sky is painted
In a wash of indigo
I've been holding on too long
In the howling of this cold"

In "Thinking of a Place," which is over ten minutes long, there is some better writing, but it still all seems like the same song:

"It was back in Little Bend that I saw you
Light was changing on the water
Where birds above had flown
There was pain in your eyes
So you vanished in the night
Missouri River in the distance
So I lied upon the lawn"

Music is so subjective, more than any other art form I think (except maybe for the visual arts--some people still don't get modern art). This record just didn't hit me on a gut level. Live and learn.

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