The War on Drugs play Altar Bar this Saturday. The Philly band was founded in 2003 after a chance meeting at a party between Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, who bonded over their love of Bob Dylan. Vile left the group in 2008, after the release of their first album, Wagonwheel Blues.
Granduciel still fronts the band, and can't you read anything about him or the group without hearing comparisons to A) Bob Dylan and/or B) Bruce Springsteen. And it only takes a single listen to recognize why. There's that distinctive, Dylanesque elocution in how he exaggerates his long vowels. And the lyrics? Under the Radar magazine broke down the Philly band's total Bossness in their review of 2011's Slave Ambient (which they gave an 8/10):
Boss-isms range from the subtle nod to the full-on lunge, the latter illustrated on "Baby Missiles," which boasts the complete package: big-ass organs, copious snare drum, chorused guitar, and that familiar up-tempo vamp. Hell, even the trademark "hoooooo!" makes a few appearances, and the lyrics are littered with Boss populism ("I'm at the freeway/down by the harbor").
Pittsburgh Music Report caught the band in 2011 when they played Club Cafe. At the time we said the show, with Caveman (who were just in town opening for Phosphorescent), was a top candidate for Pittsburgh concert of the year. Here they are performing the excellent "Your Love is Calling My Name" from that show, with enough sonic distortion to satisfy Nowhere-era Ride fans. (You can read our full review of that show and watch some more videos of their performance here.)
The band's new album, Lost in the Dream, takes a step back from early-90s shoegaze and plants both feet squarely in the soundscapes of the 1980s. Rolling Stone's feature Lost in the Dream compare it to Tom Petty, Dire Straits, and Roxy Music. There are moody synths, plucky keyboards, and enough drum machine that the drummer's union should boycott the album.
The album has received near-universal praise from reviewers. All Music Guide dubbed it a "near flawless collection of dreamy vibes, shifting moods, and movement," while Spin called it "an out-and-out star-maker that should rank among the year's best albums." Here's the video for the album's first single, Red Eyes:
We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the show. To enter, email us at pghmusicreport [at] gmail.com with "war on drugs" in the subject line. We'll announce the winner Friday.
Opening are White Laces, from Virginia. They should satisfy War on Drugs fans worried over the band's sudden abandonment of shoegaze.
- B. Conway