The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs’ creative fulcrum Adam Granduciel once declared the first record he ever bought was Phil Collins’ … But Seriously. When it comes to challenging conventional wisdom about supposedly discredited ’80s musical tropes, Granduciel has form: 2011’s Slave Ambient dipped into the future-curious sound of Bruce Springsteen circa Born In The USA and Tunnel Of Love, coating The War On Drugs’ pellucid space rock with earthy grit. Now, still oozing the romance of the tarmac, Lost In The Dream heightens this process by layering both the lush textures and the meditative choogle, through which Granduciel’s hallucinatory hobo stumbles – “Like a train in reverse down a dark road,” he notes amid Eyes To The Wind, a mid-tempo Zimmer-train of pedal steel, piano and ARP analog synths, plausibly evoking Spiritualized covering The Traveling Wilburys. It gets pretty trippy on the highway.

"A triumph of emotive feel amid neurotic detail."

Ever since co-founder Kurt Vile bailed following 2008’s debut Wagonwheel Blues, The War On Drugs is Granduciel’s show, and this grandiloquent 60-minute whirl took 15 months to piece together, utilising eight studios across five states, in addition to Granduciel’s home in Philadelphia. Occasionally the author drops ghostly interjections from his demo tapes: for instance, amid opener Under The Pressure, 8'52" of beach-bum motorik nirvana hooked around the daddy of all recurring piano riffs, subliminal sax and featuring a teasing mid-point breakdown that’s built for the massed groovy head-nod.

The War On Drugs' Adam Granduciel: holding a torch for mid-’80s rock.

Admirers of Granduciel’s previous forays along E Street won’t be disappointed. The urgent road rock of Red Eyes hooks onto Springsteen’s Suicide fixation, a sibling to Slave Ambient’s Baby Missiles but on a broader canvas with smoother edges. Likewise Burning, a phased memory of Dancing In The Dark, right down to its narrator’s earnest self-therapy – “I’m just a burning man/Trying to keep his shit from turning over again” – and Granduciel’s exultant “Wooo!”

More startling, amid the primacy of keyboard lattices, are the frequent invocations of Mark Knopfler, another inimitable rock practitioner oft tainted by proximity to the 1980s. It makes sense that a Dylan obsessive like Granduciel should acknowledge a love for Slow Train Coming’s guitarist, though perhaps less forseeable that it should be the spirit of the Knopf urging the transcendent seven-minute charge of An Ocean Between The Waves, lead guitar lines dancing like mayflies on an infinite arc.

One misstep aside – Disappearing, where Granduciel over-eggs the Linn drums and it all gets a bit Bruce Hornsby – right to the final decayed note, Lost In The Dream is a triumph of emotive feel amid neurotic detail: immaculately conceived big music for little people. The sort who are, as the title track has it, “lost in the dream, or just the silence of the moment”. Tramps like us, in other words.

Watch the video for Red Eyes: