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August 26, 2011

Album Review: The War on Drugs ‘Slave Ambient’

by @thoughtontracks

Do not link these guys to a fraudulent President who first coined the term “War on Drugs.”  This Philly based rock n’ roll quartet is nothing but authentic.  Sure some influences ring out in their songs, most notably Bruce Springsteen,  This blend of folk, blues, Americana, alternative and country provides a melting pot of opportunities for innovation.  These guys make me proud. They allow me to tout Bloomington-based indie label Secretly Canadian (See: Gardens & Villa, Here We Go Magic, Throw Me the Statue, and Yeasayer amongst many others) once again.

I would be lying if I told you that I was all over their 2008 release Wagonwheel Blues. However, I only recently realized that Kurt Vile was once a member of this group.  I guess it took a Vile departure to legendary Matador Records in 2009 and a revamped roster to finally grab my attention.


▪   Adam Granduciel (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, samplers)

▪   Dave Hartley (bass, guitars)

▪   Mike Zanghi (drums, percussion, sampler)


▪   Kurt Vile (guitar)

▪   Kyle Lloyd (drums)

▪   Charlie Hall (drums, organ)

It also helps that Sirius XMU has been dropping an aerial assault of The War on Drugs‘ single “Baby Missiles” off of their brand new album Slave Ambient.

These songs are heavily layered and detailed compared to the folky stuff that I am used to.  A quick album comparison for me is to match this one up against Wilco’s AM.  The irony is that AM was the first Wilco album post the Uncle Tupelo fall out. The change in The War on Drugs regime fits and makes sense. I hope Granduciel understands that he has the power to project like Jeff Tweedy because this material has staying power.

Along with “Baby Missiles”, I believe “Brothers” and even a wordless “Original Slave” do the best job of projecting their sounds.  To me, these songs build fusion and exemplify the unity that this new group is attempting to find.

I hate to do it, but I thank “Tricky Dick” Nixon for naming a terrific band. The War on Drugs, I thank you for this fresh piece of team building and Americana happiness.

“If you want to build beautiful music, you must play black and white notes together”

Richard Milhous Nixon

Finding the gray area is what these guys do best.  Buy their album at Luna Music.

Written by Brett McGrath

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