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August 10, 2011 / rocksandgravel

Album Review: The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

Written for The Stool Pigeon, link here

album cover

Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do in life but dust down the old rock‘n’roll tropes and make hay while the going’s still relatively good. It’s a truism Slave Ambient clutches dear to its heart, but far from being a stream of uncanny rehashes (although the twin influences of Tom Petty and The Boss admittedly loom large), TWOD bring a believably raw quality and unique layering of styles to album number two, infusing country rock with droning electronic aspects. Laced with a harsh Philly twang that adds to the salty, emotional quality of his lyrics, Granduciel tells tales and channels neuroses we can all relate to (“I’m a drifter — wahoo!”), oozing a peculiar antihero charm all the way.

Compositions filled with whirling synths, hearty guitar riffs and pounding kick drum beats bring atmospheric qualities to tracks such as opener ‘Best Night’, whilst ‘Come To The City’ is oddly reminiscent of ‘80s power pop, awash with waves of ambience. The rollercoaster ride that is ‘Baby Missiles’ could really be sung by The Boss — think tight jeans, sweat and swooning from the audience — whilst the instrumental outro for ‘Original Slave’ is so enthralling it literally makes you want to throw your guitar in the back of the Chevy and drive into the sunset.

Slave Ambient mightn’t quite be the record to provoke grown men into hulking embraces — perhaps a subdued pat on the back or a high five instead — but that’s not to say it falls short. Too smart to succumb to the double-denim naffness of the hoary rock brigade, it encapsulates the mentality of ‘don’t let the man get you down’, calling out to the inbetweeners without being over-emotional or throwing triumphant fist pumps. A good, hearty slice of Americana, in short.


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