As far as band names go, The War On Drugs is one of the best. Another thing they do pretty damn well is making fulfilling and assertive stadium rock. Returning more than four years since previous album A Deeper Understanding, The War On Drugs are back with I Don’t Live Here Anymore, a more toned and at times subdued release from a band who have built their sound on road trip worthy pieces of musical magic.
There’s a special niche in the current musical landscape for bands like The War On Drugs. At a point in time where traditional rock music doesn’t hold as much esteem as it once did, there’s a warmth in the welcoming sounds that The War On Drugs continue to create that allow them to be one of the better-received bands still relying on guitar, bass and drums to make their music. Like a warm and welcoming hug from your partner after a long day at work, a cold beer after slaving away in the back garden, or re-reading one of your favourite books, The War On Drugs is a band that harks back to a period of fond times, with I Don’t Live Here Anymore being an album filled with sounds you’re familiar with from your past while also providing a reflective look to the future.
The album commences with the solemn “Living Proof”, an opener that has the hallmarks of all the classic folk songs from the past, with spoken lyrics, acoustic guitars, piano and vivid imagery projecting a story of struggles, growth and change. Following “Living Proof” is “Harmonia’s Dream”, a song that is everything great about the band, and at more than six minutes in length, the longest of songs on the album. With an ever-present drive and progressive tone, the delivery of vocalist Adam Granduciel is as present and obvious as ever, while the country twangs of the guitars elevates “Harmonia’s Dream” to being one of the most The War On Drugs songs yet.
If you’re to take one thing away from The War On Drugs and their music it’s that they don’t do things in halves. With the shortest of the tracks on I Don’t Live her Anymore coming in at over four minutes in length, the band aren’t in any hurry to get to where they’re going. This is evident on “Change”, another six minutes of magic, with a little bit of a Britpop x Americana sound, all the while painting a rich vision of the stories the Philadelphian band continue to paint across all their releases. The album does take a left turn with “I Don’t Wanna Wait”, another journey in song form that opens with a Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” vibe that transforms into the standard blueprint of a song you’ve come to expect from the band.
With the first half of I Don’t Live Here Anymore being solid yet not taking off too much, the second half of the album is for the most part the more complete and invigorating half of the release. The titular “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is the song on the album you show people who ask ‘what do The War On Drugs sound like?’. Opening with a definite “Bette Davis Eyes” feel, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is your dad’s new favourite song, even if he doesn’t know it. It’s the epitome of what the band has created since their debut, references Bob Dylan and has a chorus that’s as empowering as you could hope for in 2021.
The first and only time I saw The War On Drugs live was at the inaugural leg of Falls Festival Byron Bay in 2014. Mid Summer and peak hangover, I stood in awe as I was introduced to a band who were months away from releasing Lost In The Dream. The cornerstone of their set was “Red Eyes”, a song that to this day is one of my favourite live music moments I’ve ever seen. And while I Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Red Eyes”, third to last “Wasted” is the song on the album everyone will froth on in a live set, while punching the air in pure ecstasy and triumph.
Ending on “Rings Around My Father’s Eyes”, a toned-down and reflective four minutes, as well as closer “Occasional Rain”, a soft and delicate ditty with a bridge that falls just short of making the song thoroughly complete, I Don’t Live Here Anymore isn’t The War On Drugs’ best album, but it’s still completely satisfying and one you’ll come back to time and time again.
Doing what they have done over and again, The War On Drugs know what they can do as a band and know they can do it well. With music as good as their name, I Don’t Live Here Anymore is just another example of why the band has been so successful for so long and are more than likely to continue doing so on future releases.