|1. Best Night|
|3. I Was There|
|4. Your Love Is Calling My Name|
|5. The Animator|
|6. Come To The City|
|7. Come For It|
|8. Its Your Destiny|
|9. City Reprise #12|
|10. Baby Missiles|
|11. Original Slave|
|12. Black Water Falls|
The War on Drugs - perhaps more precisely their frontman and chief songwriter, Adam Granduciel - appear to be in the grip of some stylistic confusion on second album Slave Ambient. But it's testament to the man's songwriting smarts that the overall results are as impressive as those on this Philadelphia band's debut, 2008's excellent Wagonwheel Blues.
In a bold and brave move, this album begins with a bang, Best Night immediately satisfying. No pre-amble, no fade in; just high-tempo krautrock. There are beats, there is feedback; its droning waves of sound come across like Neu! or Spirtualized at their best, or even Primal Scream at their least commercial. An immaculately-produced country rock number channeling Tom Petty seems an unlikely bedfellow, but Brothers is next up. Granduciel sings about the fire in his heart, and while he was hardly raised on the prairie, he sounds splendidly authentic.
I Was There is similar both thematically and sonically. There is harmonica, a muffled Springsteen-aping vocal and a simple piano melody; but despite these elements it's impossible not to think of Automatic for the People-era REM (a good thing, clearly). Comfort never last for long on Slave Ambient, though. The Animator, essentially an homage to Spacemen 3's Ecstasy Symphony, turns into Come to the City. The lyrics may claim that our protagonist is "just drifting," but the song thumps like a great Chemical Brothers collaboration.
And there are further great tunes to be found. Your Love Is Calling My Name is a driving, synth-y number that recalls Arcade Fire's Keep the Car Running, while pre-release download Baby Missiles sounds like Dire Straits' Walk of Life rebooted for the 2011 post-everything crowd. It is celebratory and magnificent.
Slave Ambient as a whole may be more confused than your average reality show star at a Mensa meeting, but it's full of decent songs with a lot of heart. Give it a listen before the global economy truly collapses and you have to sell your stereo.
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