The phrase "war on drugs" evokes old memories of that terribly executed school program that cautioned students against drugs by categorizing them in detail, along with their dangerous, albeit, interesting effects. The Philadelphia band the War on Drugs -- playing Soda Bar on Friday night -- could leave you in an equally dreamlike haze.
At first listen, frontman Adam Granduciel is the reincarnation of American music icons -- think: Springsteen, Petty, Dylan -- but there's something else to the War on Drugs. Their latest release, Slave Ambient, is their first full length since 2008's Wagonwheel Blues, and a lot have things happened to the band since then, including the departure of guitarist Kurt Vile. Although he might have left, there are still heavy ghosts of his textured sound echoing in the War on Drugs latest release. I recently listened to the entire record while driving on the highway at night, and soon afterward, I realized that that might be the best time and place to hear such a record. This is the record of movement -- with no specific destination -- but the kind of record you would want when you find yourself alone on a highway at night. It all feels grandiose and even epic, with virtually no effort put in (or it seems). Words just tumble out of Granduciel's mouth, and all the synths, loops and processors just magically fall into place.
The War on Drugs have a rebellious nature in that they are not easily categorized as just stoner-rock, Americana or noise rock -- they play the role ntrospectively and expansively. Their sound could easily fit arenas, while Granduciel could just as happily tinker away at his guitar and add some loops to achieve the same ambience. Unlike many band that have borrowed from their forefathers, the War on Drugs do it well, taking just enough to allow for their own modern sound.
You can catch the War on Drugs at Soda Bar on Friday, with Purling Hiss and Carter Tanton. Get your tickets here.