An endless highway, an open cabriolet or – well – maybe even an old Ford Chevrolet. The desert in front or the beach aside of you. A warm breeze through your hair, sunlight shimmering through your sunglasses. Freedom. A glamorized and maybe old fashioned dream of California, America and everything else. But isn’t it a bad thing to get lost in such a dream? It feels like Adam Granduciel is totally aware of that appetency. Lost In The Dream, the third album by his band THE WAR ON DRUGS is the soundtrack for your inner American dream. And It might be also the album that will finally bring Granduciel and his ambitious dreamy retro rock songs the attention he deserves.
While the 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues was still a bit undefined, 2011’s Slave Ambient helped Granduciel to get his band more in the spotlight. Lost In The Dream continues this path and unfolds itself as Granduciels most ambitious but also most focussed longplayer so far. And his most accessible to date as well. THE WAR ON DRUGS play with a psychedelic mixture of fuzzy guitars, shoegazing synthesizers, hypnotic steel guitar moments and the voice of storyteller Granduciel that always sounds a bit like a mixture of Springsteen and Dylan. But there’s also room for piano, brass sections and a good old fashioned harmonica. This is the sound of THE WAR ON DRUGS. And Lost In The Dream perfects it in the most joyful possible way.
One way in which the ambition shows itself is the length of the songs. Most of the albums tracks are way beyond the five-minute-mark. The smooth opener Under The Pressure unfolds itself almost nine minutes long. It’s the start of our trip. We step into the car, put the pedal to the metal and just drive. It’s like a huge weight falling from all our shoulders. What an epic way to start the record. Next in line is the energetic lead single Red Eyes. It’s when Granduciel switches right into Springsteen mode. Hell yes, boy. ‘It all seems everywhere’ – he’s probably right.
Suffering continues as a slow rolling six-minute long blues that actually appears way less sad than the title might apply. Right after it, An Ocean in Between the Waves illustrates one of the highlights on the record. ‘Can I be more than just a fool?’ asks Granduciel. The 7-minute-long opus comes with an eccentric finale. Well, at least within the dreamy sound cosmos of his band. Faster songs like this and also Burning are working quite well for THE WAR ON DRUGS. But the band is at their best when they slow down the pace. The melancholic midtempo ballad Eyes To The Wind plays with Western and country sunset romantic. Almost too close to the kitsch but of course it always keeps his dignity. And yes, even if there’s a saxophone.
The probably best song on Lost In The Dreams remains the seven-minute-long Disappearing. An easy floating piece of dazing dream pop. Laid over a monotone drum loop it drowns itself and the listener into the softness of synthesizer strings, dreamy guitar play and caressing vocals. Especially around one and a half minutes within the song the track just gets magical. It’s one of these moments where you want to just dissolve yourself completely inside the music. Getting, well, lost in it. It’s that easy. It’s the ongoing emotion of that record. Until the final notes of the delightful closer In Reverse die away. You don’t wanna let go. Not this dream, not that record.
You can argue that Lost In The Dream turned out to be a bit too long and a bit too soft while lacking certain edginess. But that was never the point of Granduciel and THE WAR ON DRUGS. They dream a different kind of dream. And through all its length and lulling atmosphere the band managed to create something not a lot of bands today achieve – a coherent record with a red line. One you can enjoy from start to finish without feeling tempted so skip a track. An album that works out best in its entirety without removing single parts of it. Everything is at its place. Yes, it’s an old fashioned way, something that’s not ‘hip’ anymore. But it’s true and honest beauty in the end. Just like that old Chevrolet. We don’t mind a second cruise.
With ‘Lost In The Dream’ THE WAR ON DRUGS bring their mixture of dreamy soft rock and tender shoegaze close to perfection, resulting in their most ambitious and most coherent album so far – a true masterpiece.
NBHAP Rating: 5/5
The full album is currently up for stream via NPR.org