Philadelphia’s War on Drugs hit the road on an enjoyable heartland rock odyssey but take some very cool detours along the way
On their ambitious third album, The War on Drugs get lost in the big skies and endless vistas of heartland rock. The songs are dense and exploratory, just like a long day’s journey into night fuelled by turbulent but melodic guitar runs and Adam Granducei’s weathered and plaintive voice - one part hitch-hiking (not freewheeling) Dylan, one part crestfallen Springsteen.
They wear their influences well, from the Ry Cooder-like nocturnal atmospherics of The Haunting Idle, to the punchy Red Eyes and there’s enough going on under the broad thrust to keep things engaging, perhaps a welcome echo of previous band member Kurt Vile. The guitars here are just as likely to disintegrate in slo-mo shoe gaze disarray as hit the more obvious pleasure spots.
This embrace of cruising, feel-good FM rock can verge dangerously close to streamlined Dire Straits in places but there is much to savour on this engrossing album, especially the way Granducei throws the occasional spanner in the works on the wide open road.