by Megan Dunn. Band photo by Shawn Brackbill.
War on Drugs fans are getting their fix with the recent release of the band’s much anticipated fifth studio album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Described by Rolling Stone as “pure Bob Dylan fan fiction -- with too many references to Dylan to count,” the album solidifies the band’s identifiable sound of indie rock cred with stadium rock tendencies.
The band, whose last studio album was 2017’s acclaimed A Deeper Understanding, has emerged from 2020’s lockdown with 10 tracks that reflect the musical influence of, not only Dylan, but Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, and The Killers.
The first two tracks, “Living Proof” (released in July) and the title track (September), have supercharged anticipation for the full album’s release. “Living Proof,” a song with an uncharacteristically acoustic feel, offers a softer more restrained sound—with NPR reviewer, Bruce Warren, compared it to a “post-quarantine hug.” The title track, however, has the big rock anthem feel that fans expect from the group. The album was recorded, according to Rolling Stone, over three years at seven different studios around the world. The War on Drugs describes I Don’t Live Here Anymore as an “uncommon rock album about one of our most common but daunting processes—resilience in the face of despair.”
In this post-pandemic world, life has changed for 42-year-old bandleader, Adam Granduciel. Often compared to Bruce Springsteen, Granduciel, who welcomed a son in 2019 and aptly named him Bruce, found himself grounded in 2020. With the absence of live shows -- something the band and fans live for -- the pandemic left him with more time for family. In an article for Pitchfork, Sam Sodomsky writes that “spending so much time at home and learning to devote his attention solely on his family, led Granduciel to take a different perspective on music, finding new resonance in spur-of-the-moment performances from his bandmates.”
Originally from Philadelphia, The War on Drugs was formed by Granduciel and Kurt Vile after the two met at a party in 2003. Although a variety of musicians came and went, the band solidified with Granduciel and Vile on vocals and guitar, Charlie Hall on organ and drums, Dave Hartley on bass, and Kyle Lloyd on percussion and drums. They released their debut EP, the five-song set Barrel of Batteries online. The EP gained the attention of independent record label Secretly Canadian, who signed the band and helped launch their first full-length album, Wagonwheel Blues, in June 2008. However, just months after the release, founding member Vile along with Hall and Lloyd left the group.
Multiple musicians came and went through the mid-2000s with drummer Mike Zanghi joining from 2008- 2010, drummer Steven Urgo from 2010-2012, and Patrick Berkery replacing Urgo until 2013. But by the time The War on Drugs released their third studio album, Lost in Dreams, in 2014 the band members had begun to stabilize with Robbie Bennett joining in 2010 on keyboard, piano, and guitar and drummer Charlie Hall in 2013. The sextet’s current lineup also includes guitarist Anthony LaMarca and sax player and multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez. Lost in Dreams, which took the band two years to complete, was both a critical and commercial success. Several publications, including Spin, named it the best album of 2014. With a quickly growing fanbase, the band set off on a successful tour through the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Their 2017 album, A Deeper Understanding, was their first on Atlantic Records, and earned the band a Grammy for best rock album. Pitchfork described it as layered and meticulous, calling it “a twilight world in which to lose yourself.”
The success of this album further fueled the band’s relentless touring. And, with the return of live music after a long COVID hiatus, the band is set to rock arenas once again during their upcoming 2022 North American and European tour. The tour officially kicks off in Austin, Texas on Jan. 19 after the band headlines the Desert Daze Festival in Moreno Beach, California on Nov. 12. The tour will also include two shows in the band’s hometown of Philadelphia and conclude in Spain on July 8.