Album Review: I Don’t Live Here Anymore // The War On Drugs

The War On Drugs sitting around a table

Topping a Grammy Award-winning record invariably proves a big ask. Throw in a shared global pandemic that’s taken away the bulk of our livelihood and that ups the ante even further. Three years and more studio time than Tears for Fears at their tyrannical 80s peak, The War on Drugs fifth album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, has been painstakingly crafted from a zillion hours of recordings. Fortunately, the quality control antennae of frontman, chief cook and bottlewasher Adam Granduciel has been expertly honed over the past decade and a half.   

Released on Atlantic Records, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, opens with a contemplative curtain-raiser defiantly titled ‘Living Proof’. The song is a two-fingered salute to everything our malevolent decade has chosen to throw at us. The world-weary musician still has enough left in the tank to choose fight over flight as a doleful piano serves as the scene setter. The listener becomes instantly transported back to a Boss-era, blue-collar middle America, boasting more pick-up trucks than you can shake a stick at.        

The straight-ahead road trip groover ‘Change’ reminds me of Traveling Wilburys, but in a good way. We’re talking a traditional slab of good old-fashioned, laid-back rock and roll grooviness drenched with piano and guitars. Despite clocking in at over 6 minutes, it’s super catchy to boot as you drift away and your eyes glaze over as the blurred uneventful scenery rushes past your car window. 

Sentimentality is never very far away on this record, the pain-wracked loss of ‘Rings Around My Fathers Eyes’ is a case in point. Granduciel is desperate to right his wrongs. “Into darkness I will reach / Fall into the ocean deep/ Just to bring you back,” he sings. The Sombre, ‘Old Skin’, reeks of broken dreams, and if this track gets a music video, I’m betting £50 the footage includes a 360 shot of one or more band members standing on a rocky outcrop a-la ‘Blaze Of Glory’. 

Guests include a welcome appearance from New York folk-popsters, Lucius on the title track, ‘I Don’t Live Here Any More’. It is an epic synth-drenched odyssey redolent of Don Henley’s classic, ‘The Boys of Summer’. The vocal fairy dust provided by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig gives it an almost gospel denouement. The album’s only uptempo moment comes in ‘Wasted’, a frantically propelled song about a messy and all too brief liaison far away from home. We’ve all been there.        

Granduciel’s evocative second-hand soft rock soothes throughout the ten weighty tracks. This is comfort music and for something sounding so derivative, the songs possess an unfathomable quirkiness enabling him to largely get away with it … almost as if he’s hiding in plain sight. One thing is certain, with UK Arena dates planned for the new year, the voluminous I Don’t Live Here Anymore will no doubt effortlessly permeate those cavernous spaces. 

Words by Michael Price 

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