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THE WAR ON DRUGS

It’s always interesting to see how a band who’ve been working away in the margins of cultdom react when they take a leap into the mainstream.

For some, the increase in interest and attention can lead to a artistic and, at times, mental meltdown. The fact is that, contrary to popular belief, not everyone wants to be rich and famous and when such dramatically changed circumstances are thrust upon people the effects can be catastrophic.

Kurt Cobain is a classic case in point here but what’s even more interesting is how an act’s music can change when the spotlight on them magnifies.

When Talking Heads went from clubs to stadiums their music arguably became more experimental, with the artistic restlessness of David Byrne leading him into all sorts of areas.

On the other hand you have the likes of Kings of Leon, who were interesting and rootsy for their first couple of albums before reaching for the U2 switch on their effects boards as soon as the crowds got bigger with the result that they can headline the likes of Slane but haven’t recorded a note worth a damn in years.

emerging

Hopefully, such a fate won’t await The War on Drugs, the Philadelphia outfit who’ve been quietly plugging away for more than a decade but are now emerging into the light. Singer and chief songwriter Adam Granduciel (inset) most definitely hasn’t fallen into the KOL trap on Lost in the Dream, the band’s third album released to great acclaim a couple of months back.

Although still steeped in the offbeat Americana that characterised their first two outings, Wagonwheel Blues and Slave Ambient, there’s a distinct Germanic, electronic influence to be heard on the record. The influences of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen can still be discerned, but on tracks like Under the Pressure, Red Eyes and An Ocean in Between the Waves but also lurking there are echoes of Neu! and Kraftwerk.

The War on Drugs wouldn’t be the first US act to dabble with such an array of influences. Wilco started life in the early ’90s as effectively a country outfit but in recent years have co-opted elements of art-noise and Krautrock into their sonic spectrum.

With Lost in the Dream picking up airplay like the band have never had before and word of mouth increasing exponentially it comes as little surprise that TWOD’s Dublin show has had to be moved from Whelan’s to Vicar Street. That’s a large leap for a band to make in a couple of months and a sure sign that things are on an upward gradient for Graduciel and his bandmates.

- george byrne

- The War on Drugs play Vicar Street on Thursday.


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