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The War on Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore

Adam King 11/12/21

Imagine a world where irony ceases to be. Where Wilco and Phil Collins walk hand-in-hand and say ‘rad’ and ‘dude’ to each other a little too much. A world where Family Ties plays on a square TV and you’re smoking cigarettes in your mom’s kitchen while she’s at work, but it’s 2021 and you’re 43 years old.  


This is the world where I Don’t Live Here Anymore dwells; a world that Adam Granduciel has toed the line of for at least a decade at this point, but just triumphantly swan-dives into on the latest War on Drugs album. And it’s rad as all hell. The formula hasn’t really changed at all – while it leans further from the Boss and closer to Knopfler than it has before, the ghost of Tom Petty is still grinning under the floorboards. 


But all these songs are surer of themselves. They’re still the perfect driving-around-your-old-hometown-the-day-after-hooking-up-with-your-high-school-girlfriend-that-you-saw-at-your-father’s-funeral songs, but have more of an optimistic closing-credits vibe than the usual mid-flick-protagonist-rumination-scene vibe.  Hell, the closer itself is called “Occasional Rain”, and I dare you to come up with a title that sounds more like an early-2000s John Cusack rom-com mistake that you’re not really sure exists or not. 


Opener, “Living Proof”, is a bold choice to kick things off with. It’s a super slow build that eventually morphs into some Jeff Tweedy roleplaying, and I fucking love Granduciel for that. This is shameless heart music, and it doesn’t give a fuck what you think it sounds like, or what it reminds you of. It’s just existing in the only manner it knows how, and if that causes the sensation of mainlining nostalgia, then so be it. It’s like snorting rails of the new Ghostbusters movie. But no… it really is, though.


Roaring synth leads are present throughout, but never come as a shock nor a novelty. You think “Harmonia’s Dream” would 100% sound great as the opening montage reunion scene of the Breakfast Club sequel, and then you laugh, and then you stop, and then you think that maybe a Breakfast Club sequel would actually be cool, and then you realize how much you love this album, and then you start freebasing Season 4 of Stranger Things. 


The title track, with backing vocals from the Lucius ladies, is somehow understatedly over-the-top. You’d be bowled over by its audacity if it wasn’t so overwhelmingly sincere at the same time. “Old Skin” is another one that just bleeds with confidence, which is a weird thing to say since I’ve never faulted The War on Drugs for a lack of self-assuredness. But the strength just feels notable now, and incredibly warm at the same time. 


“Rings Around My Father’s Eyes” is the LP tail-end, slow pseudo-ballad, but it’s never a drag. It’s definitely a song written by a man who has cried to the studio version of “Black Muddy River”, but haven’t we all?


I had written The War on Drugs off as a plateau band – a band that found their comfort zone and wouldn’t need to move forward. And I still enjoyed, respected, and listened to them. But now that long build into stability has forged a steel support of a jumping-off platform and they live in a house made of doors, all potentially opening in any direction they damn well please. Welcome to the world of the next. 

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