A Deeper Understanding makes good on the promise initiated at by 2014’s Lost in the Dream.
While Dream surfaced from a cloud of depression to become the band’s breakthrough record, the Drugs’ latest release moves beyond that to contemplate connection with others. The key to the material is its rhythms, giving a steady palpitating groove to anxiety and regret (“Holding On”) or a soothing pace to an ongoing inner dialogue (“The Strangest Thing”); fast or languid the music sonically aligns itself with Drugs’ braintrust Adam Granduciel’s lyrics. With a nod to the title, he may not have found easy peaceful resolution but he has developed a deeper understanding of where he wants to go professionally with his band mates and their music and how he hopes to live away from it.
The drums, keyboards and guitars unite as one pulsating wall of sound that moves like a cross country road trip of fluctuating speed limits, rural and urban landscapes. “Up All Night” begins Granduciel’s musings. Its pace and hook run for six minutes but its hypnotic framework is sturdy enough it could go on forever.
Granduciel has the musical vision in place with the five other members of War on Drugs popping in and out of the picture to contribute what is needed for the benefit of the song. Together, they take his inspiration and perfectionist tendencies to get things just exactly right and make the songs in his mind become the 10 tracks in reality.
As the album wraps up with “You Don’t Have to Go” and “Clean Living,” the impasse of a deeper understanding of himself and reaching out beyond his own thoughts offers a degree of hope that a shaky sense of contentment is possible. But, after all this it’s not certain if Granduciel is searching for a lost love or seeking a Lost Chord? It doesn’t matter because when he finally perfects his musical mission, as he does here, and lets it go out to the world, the journey produces wonders.