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The War on Drugs: The Music of Rootlessness

The Philadelphia band The War on Drugs is steeped in music of the past, mining the territory between Americana and the esoteric U.K. rock of the '80s. With songs that coax comparisons to Tom Petty and The Smiths, Bob Dylan and Brian Eno, the band's debut (Wagonwheel Blues) wears its many influences prominently.

"Taking The Farm" demonstrates The War on Drugs' skill at integrating those parts naturally by combining the ethereal and the guttural. Adam Granduciel's voice sounds gritty and nasal, but it works nicely with Kurt Vile's trembling and spacious guitar melodies. Meanwhile, a thunderous landscape of keyboards, fuzzed-out guitar feedback, and clacking drums allows the songs to feel much grander in scale.

"Taking the Farm," which Granduciel reportedly wrote while sweating out the prospect of his own eviction, is a song of rootlessness and worry: "But I'll be chopping down treetops, tree after tree / When I've been confusing highways for a one-way street." Granduciel ultimately opts to embrace the changes he can't control, and to move forward rather than holding onto the past. The War on Drugs' members could well be singing about their own musical development: Instead of living nostalgically with the bands they love, they wisely choose not to loiter too long, and in the process find a unique musical voice.

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Mike Katzif