The War on Drugs Aim for Arena Grandeur on 'I Don't Live Here Anymore'

BY Alex HudsonPublished Oct 25, 2021

The War on Drugs was always essentially a solo project — the product of songwriter Adam Granduciel holing up in a studio, playing most of the instruments himself and, as he said back in 2014, "going off the rails a little bit in my own head."

But on I Don't Live Here Anymore, Granduciel sounds like he has emerged from from isolation and is ready to wrap his arms around the world. Instead of hunkering down by himself, Granduciel demoed these songs with members of his live band, bouncing between multiple studios with collaborator Shawn Everett (who has been promoted to co-producer since mixing 2017's A Deeper Understanding).

I Don't Live Here Anymore continues Granduciel's journey away from his shoegaze- and psych-inspired origins, as he peels back the murk and makes an album that sounds very much like his influences. The arpeggios that open the title track are a dead ringer for '80s hit "Bette Davis Eyes," while standouts "Harmonia's Dream" and "Wasted" have the fist-pumping quality of Bruce Springsteen. He used to make music for the heartland, but now he's making anthems for arenas.

Occasionally, I Don't Live Here Anymore drifts a little into pleasantry — folksy opener "Living Proof" doesn't make much of an impression (it was a bizarre choice for a lead single). Same with breezy back-half cuts like the power ballad "Old Skin" and the mellow troubadour tune "Rings Around My Father's Eyes."

But even if the tracklist isn't quite 10-for-10 in terms of quality, much of the appeal of I Don't Live Here Anymore lies in the little sonic details rather than the songs themselves. It's in the way "Victim" careens between half-speed and full-throttle before melting down with a fucked-up solo that sounds like Granduciel put his distortion pedal in the microwave, and how the acoustic guitars glisten like streetlights on a damp sidewalk as Granduciel repeats the title lyric of closer "Occasional Rain." Guitar-based rock music has rarely sounded lovelier than it does in the War on Drugs' hands.

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