10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The war on drugs does work,
This review is from: Wagonwheel Blues (Audio CD)
It's interesting that The War On Drugs , a five piece from Philadelphia , bonded over a shared love of Bob Dylan for lead singer Adam Granduciel often sounds so much like Dylan ( especially on "There Is No Urgency" where he sounds truly uncannily like the Spitting Image puppet of Dylan ) that they run a risk of a pastiche of the artist they love. Yet there is so much more to the band than that , that the Dylan thing just gets blown away. Wagonwheel Blues is such an fascinating album sonically that the nasal vocal whine disappears into the background , almost literally sometimes and becomes the least interesting thing about the music.
The band clearly share a love of rock traditionalism so it's a revelation how they manage to pay respect to it without resorting to clichéd revivalism . They do this by combining classic song writing with an Americana twist with the fuzzed up sounds capes, crashing percussion, twinkling drones, diaphanous eddies and ulcer forming bursts of static utilised by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Seefeel , Scorn, or more recent material by bands like The Besnard Lakes . Guitars, samplers, harmonica, piano, Wurlitzer , trumpet, organs create a dizzying array of sonifaction and nuanced textures.
There is a true diversity in the songs themselves . The relentless clanging chords of the ten minute epic "Show Me The Coast" are followed by the to some extent diffuse guitar on the brief lament "Barrel Of Batteries" .Album opener "Arms Like Boulders" is the most straight up rock song on the album -complete with wheezing harmonica- but is followed by the processed beats and perverted harmonies of "Taking The Farm". "Buenos Aires Beach" is like Tom Petty refracted by a diamond prism but the battering percussion and cathedral drones of "A Needle In Your Eye # 16" sound like Electralane covering the Chills. But that's followed by the Eno like drifts and intractable quirks of "Reverse In The Charges" , most un-Dylan like - so this is truly an album of contrasts.
Only the mundane instrumental "Coast Reprise" comes across as filler. WagonWheel Blues pulls of a very neat trick of sounding comfortably familiar while surprising at virtually every turn. I wouldn't go as far as to call it a classic but it's not far off and it's ability to make the listener view an over-subscribed genre in an unsullied undiluted way make it one of the most admirable albums for a long time.