It's been almost four full years since The War on Drugs graced us with their meticulously constructed Grammy Award-winning A Deeper Understanding in 2017. The subsequent tour, captured on 2020's Live Drugs was a victory lap that crystallized this group's electrifying performance prowess. Yet, it might be an understatement to say a lot has changed since then. An altering global string of events, frontman Adam Granduciel's newly-minted fatherhood, and an irrevocable shock to our relationship to live music. What's the journey of digesting change, and when do we amend? It's these very questions that provoke the resulting dynamism in this band's latest album I Don't Live Here Anymore—a cerebral, soul-slicing anthemic rock proclamation. With taut, sculpted hooks, and burly melodies, Granduciel has built an album exploring the ruffled and soothing energy of self-reflection.
With previous releases featuring decadent serpentines of shoegaze guitar echos, and groovy up-tempo long-form jams, Granduciel melded the best of both these worlds into this new record. From the opening track, Living Proof, folksy strumming and staccato piano jabs glide above Granduciel, who recounts the strife in realizing the paradoxical swirling of an altered relationship: "I know the path/ I know it's changing/ I know the pain."
I Don't Wanna Wait grapples with predicting life's changing tides. A metronome-like drum machine marches underneath fluid phase-y guitar fuzz with Granduciel's voice, drenched and reminiscent of a shotty phone connection calling out, "I don't wanna wait/ When I'm running to you" before continuing: "Show a little faith/ When I'm running to you." The album finds a triumphant peak in the title track I Don't Live Here Anymore where propellent, stadium-sized arpeggios ring out over a rock-solid drum groove. Granduciel, backed by the enchanting harmonies of folk duo Lucius, proclaims his unrelenting desire to make things right notwithstanding everything that's displaced ("I'm gonna walk through every doorway/ I can't stop/ I need some time, I need control/ I wanna find out everything I need to know").
Built equally for the headphones and for the arenas, I Don't Live Here Anymore stirs a universal truism and does so in kick-ass rock stylings: wrestling with the shifting tides of life is a constant, and the effort we make in spite of change makes all the difference. With sturdy lyrical themes and righteous melodic euphoria, The War on Drugs have crafted an album for taking the first step forward, which, while complex, is undoubtedly worthwhile.