The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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The War on Drugs

Slave Ambient

Secretly Canadian

Aug 12, 2011 #37 – St. Vincent Bookmark and Share

Find It At: Insound

Boss-gaze. That's where we're at in mid-2011, adrift in the post-irony, post-industry music industry, its genre barriers and business models laying by the wayside like broken levies. Philadelphia's The War on Drugs wear some clear influences on their sleeves, raking the anthems and everyman balladry of Bruce Springsteen over a bed of shoegaze and dream pop stylistics.

Boss-isms range from the subtle nod to the full-on lunge, the latter illustrated on "Baby Missiles," which boasts the complete package: big-ass organs, copious snare drum, chorused guitar, and that familiar up-tempo vamp. Hell, even the trademark "hoooooo!" makes a few appearances, and the lyrics are littered with Boss populism ("I'm at the freeway/down by the harbor").

Dress that up in dense, effects-laden production and you get a double-barreled success, hitting simultaneously in the nostalgia center and dopamine receptors. Does Clarence get a saxophone for Christmas? Only if he likes it wrapped up in a lake of reverb, Spiritualized Farfisas, and building drones. If this is a war on drugs, it's failing miserably.

But back to The Boss—frontman Adam Granduciel can tap right into that same stuff that makes people want a three hour show, that goddamn yearning, that crippling adult angst. Whether it's on the motorik-infused romp of "Your Love Is Calling My Name" or the slow-burning, piano-based "I Was There," there is an underlying tension that is dialed in just so, and it is in fact adult, free from the grandiosity or preciousness one might sniff out in Arcade Fire's channeling their particular Springsteen.

This fully delivers on the potential that 2008's Wagonwheel Blues hinted at, a swath of nostalgia in a storm of mind-bending audio. This is boss-gaze, and—sorry, old dudes and purity chasers—it's stupendous. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Laura Studarus
August 13th 2011

Bruce Springsteen + shoegaze= Boss-gaze