Under Review/Streets Of My Town: The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

Take a stroll through the Streets Of My Town, either the feature on this site or the actual streets of Philadelphia (your choice), and you’ll find that the city’s music scene doesn’t have any one defining style. Sure, there are pockets of like-minded artists making outsider folk, grimy garage noise and galloping electronica, but Philadelphia’s musical identity is one of extreme diversity. If you do find multiple artists who do sound a lot like each other, there’s an excellent chance that they’ve played together at one point. Such is the case with Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile. Both guitarists were founding members of The War On Drugs, though only Granduciel remains in the band today. As Vile’s audience bloomed with the release of Smoke Ring For My Halo, an album that supremely underwhelmed me, Granduciel stands to do the exact same with the War On Drugs’ second album, Slave Ambient. Featuring newly tweaked recordings of tracks from last year’s Future Weather EP, Slave Ambient is a massive step forward for Granduciel and his band of psychedelic roots rockers.

What sets Slave Ambient apart from Smoke Ring is the album’s numerous upbeat moments. Songs like the freeway-slamming “Your Love Is Calling My Name” and the Dire Straits-meets-“Keep The Car Running” jam “Baby Missiles” make me wonder if I would’ve enjoyed Smoke Ring more if its swirling drone was interspersed with some rock n’ roll. Slave Ambient isn’t a complete headrush, as the opening couplet of “Best Night” and “Brothers” commences the record with a breezy amble. Granduciel’s echo-laden mumble makes his already oblique lyrics difficult to pick apart, but the overall theme of escape is crystal clear. Granduciel is relaxed but antsy; eager to seize the summer but well aware of its fleeting nature. Through instrumental vignettes like “Original Slave” and “The Animator,” Slave Ambient is stitched together like the soundtrack to a vintage road movie. The kind of movie where story and dialogue take a backseat to unbridled emotion and the chase for one last celebration. With Slave Ambient, The War On Drugs have reasserted themselves as one of the Philadelphia scene’s essential acts.

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~ by E. on August 24, 2011.

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