Wagonwheel Blues

The War on Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues

Straight outta Philly, The War on Drugs is one of a number of bands I’ve been meaning to post about, but never got around to. And while my thoughts on the record are overdue, the delay has certainly not arisen from any kind of second thoughts. Their full-length, Wagonwheel Blues, has received a fair amount of critical acclaim and after spending quite a bit of time with it, I can easily agree that it is one of the finest debuts to grace 2008 so far.

Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Adam Granduciel sets the tone of this record in the distinct tradition of post-modern reinvention by pulling from, and fusing, a diverse set of influences that span era and genre. Most apparent is the thread of prototypical American rock music, whether it be the meandering drawl of Dylan, the rambling roots-rock of CCR, or the blue-collar anthemics of Springsteen. Yet, Granduciel also drenches Wagonwheel Blues in layers of fuzzed-out guitars and atmospheric drones that recall Brian Eno, Suicide, and, to some extent, My Bloody Valentine, somehow reconciling these seemingly disparate approaches in ways that are both familiar and original. The resulting album is one of the more mesmerizing efforts of the year, one I’ve found myself returning to often over the past few months.

From the start, “Taking the Farm” has been the promotional track of choice for Wagonwheel Blues, and why wouldn’t it be? With its soaring guitars, galloping rhythm, captivating melodies, right on down to the Creedence-like “woo-ooo-ooos” that punctuate the chorus, the song screams “anthem” and illustrates much of Granduciel’s strengths as a songwriter… you shouldn’t need much else to be convinced that this is an album that demands your attention.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download: The War on Drugs – Taking the Farm
Buy: Order Wagonwheel Blues from the Secretly Canadian Mailorder.
Watch: The War on Drugs just recently premiered the video for “A Needle in Your Eye #16”, another great track from Wagonwheel Blues, in which the compiled images reinforce their nostalgic American songwriter elements. Check out a high-res version over at Pitchfork.tv.