Preview: The War on Drugs at The Satellite


Perhaps I shouldn’t say so, but the best drug experience I’ve ever had was had, no joke, while listening to The War on Drugs. I was riding in a convertible with my best friend from high school. Downtown was deserted. It was the middle of the night. We took a right on E 11th St. just as the slow drawl of “There Is No Urgency” was reaching its crescendo and saw the lights of the newly-constructed Nokia Theatre reflect over the hood of the car. These days, I’d say that Chick Hearn Ct. (or as I like to call it, ESPN Canyon) is every bit the bustling sports hub its creators intended, but in those early days, listening to that beautiful song, L.A. Live seemed downright peaceful. 

“Who is this?” my friend asked.

I laughed. “It’s The War on Drugs.”

Besides the obvious irony, I think what made The War on Drugs the ideal band to listen to while tripping is that they’ve known from very early on how to construct a song. They take their time with compositions, lulling the listener with a steady drumbeat, until they wake things up with driving melodies on guitar and organ. Lead singer Adam Granduciel sings to the listener directly in second person, soothsaying like an Ayahuasca guide. 

“Don’t be so surprised at your friends / and their new directions,” Granduciel sings, “Don’t ever return to the place where you were born / by sliding in on golden thrones.” Granduciel writes lyrics to himself, to remind himself of things. I wonder sometimes if his lyrical “friend” referrs to guitarist Kurt Vile, who left leave the band after their first record to start his successful solo career. It really doesn’t matter, as it’s sung with enough heartfelt emotion to be universal. Certainly we felt it was about us.

Slave Ambient, the second LP by The War on Drugs, which was released in August, is no less personal. Songs like “It’s Your Destiny” become so ingrained on first listen that you nod along to the synths before they kick in. Like the band’s previous recordings, it’s the perfect  album to throw on in the first leg of a road trip, when spirits are exuberant, and it’s equally perfect to throw on during the last leg of one, when you need something on the stereo to get you home.

The War On Drugs make music about America and songs that capture the connective tissue of our states–the intercontinental highway system–in the rumble of their drumbeats. It’s beautiful stuff and I can’t recommend it enough, whether you’re high or not. 

The War on Drugs play the Satellite club in Silver Lake tomorrow. I’ll be there in the back, sober but in ecstasy all the same.

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