Photo by Claire Fishkow
Following a Free At Noon set so energized that his amp blew out, Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs joined us down the hall with his acoustic guitar for a pared-down Key Studio Session. The set showcased three album tracks from the band’s incredible new full-length, Slave Ambient, out yesterday on Secretly Canadian Records (and celebrating its release tomorrow at Johnny Brenda’s). “I’m going to attempt to do this without layers of phaser,” Granduciel jokes before launching into a strummy take on album opener “Best Night.” The thing is, it’s no struggle; it totally works. True, the album is built on brilliant, thrilling incorporation of textures, tones, and loops reminiscent of early 80s synthesizers. (XPN’s Dan Reed once drew a fitting comparison between the drumbeat on Slave Ambient’s lead single, “Baby Missiles,” and the drumbeat on Alan Vega’s “Video Babe.”) But, with all due respect to bandmates and sonic co-conspirators Dave Hartley, Robbie Bennett, and Steven Urgo, you can knock the fancy auditory architecture away and the music holds up. As Granduciel’s performance showed, there are haunting and affecting songs at the core. “Brothers” (also featured on last year’s Future Weather EP) was touching, “Black Water Falls” (an “old song made anew”) was exuberant. Granduciel is a talented, imaginative songwriter—fans of Philly music have long known this—and this album gives his craft its due time to shine. The War on Drugs performs with Caveman and Tin Horses Thursday, Aug. 18 at Johnny Brenda’s. Tickets to the 21+ show are $12.
Free At Noon, Johnny Brenda's, The Key Studio Sessions, The War On Drugs, World Cafe Live