It's funny how an album can slip through the cracks, only to be picked up over a year later and heard in a completely different light. One nice plus of having a blog is that it can serve as a personal repository of memories, impressions, and regrets. The best part? I can Google search my brain. Over a year ago, I was obsessing over "Taking the Farm," a song by The War on Drugs, a Philly-based band that formerly had Kurt Vile as an active member (Sounds like he's on indefinite hiatus). Although I loved that track to death, I don't think I'd ever made it through Wagonwheel Blues in its entirety.
Things have changed since then, and now I almost exclusively listen to albums, rather than a bunch of singles or one-off tracks from several artists. With Monday's announcement of The War on Drugs' forthcoming EP and the stunning "Comin' Through," I decided to give Wagonwheel Blues a much-needed revisit. To my surprise, I took to the album immediately. During this revelatory moment, I realized that the band was probably performing onstage at the Knitting Factory. Fortunately, I saw that they were playing another Brooklyn show the following day, right around my neighborhood. Some things are just meant to be.
For a mainly Kurt Vile fan, seeing The War on Drugs for the first time feels like entering a strange, alternate universe. Frontman Adam Granduciel and drummer Mike Zanghi are members of the Violators, the backing band for Kurt Vile, but the guys seemed much more in their element as The War on Drugs. With a style that's reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Granduciel has a love-it-or-hate-it voice that fits in perfectly with my understanding of the band: a modern, experimental take on Americana. As a live band, The War on Drugs delivered a near-perfect balance of precision and new interpretations, something that I've always felt that KV struggled with in his shows. During their set, The War on Drugs unveiled some new tunes, including the organ-driven "Baby Missiles," my current favorite off the Future Weather EP. But, they were sure to bring out old favorites like a less hazy rendition of "Taking the Farm" and an extended, jammy version of "A Needle In Your Eye #16."
Ultimately, I am amazed by the band's ability to create a complex sound from rather simple parts. I could spend hours trying to break down the devastatingly beautiful melodies into their layers, and I discover something new every time I listen. I have to admit that the lack of harmonica for this show was a bummer for me, especially for a song like "Arms Like Boulders," which opens with a great solo line. I can only imagine what The War on Drugs could sound like if they added a third guitarist, but I'm pretty sure that they would melt faces.
For those of you who haven't been to The Rock Shop yet, the "venue" part is pretty small, kind of like the Pianos showroom. Like Pianos, the sound at The Rock Shop is pretty incredible and can get surprisingly loud. I am a fan.
Future Weather will be released on October 28. It looks like The War on Drugs is hitting Virginia and North Carolina in the next couple of weeks, so definitely check them out if they roll through your town.
Comin' Through - The War on Drugs
Show Me The Coast - The War on Drugs