Adam Granduciel has taken an open-hearted approach to arena-filling glory. The War On Drugs’ frontman might cut the rock’n’roll stereotype – all flailing locks and plaid shirts–- but he’s never bought into the mythology that comes with the role. Instead, the 42-year-old has mastered his craft with obsessive drive, figuring out life’s bumpy road by way of soul-searching Americana.
Granduciel and co. had rounded off a world tour for 2017’s ‘A Deeper Understanding’, which picked up a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, when the pandemic arrived – luckily Granduciel was already seeking space to create. He also became a father during this period; he’s always made deeply spiritual music, so it makes sense the two life-changing events found him more reflective than ever before on fifth album ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’.
The sentiment is confirmed by moving opener ‘Living Proof’, which kicks the journey off with reflective keys and a plaintive strum of guitar. With the lyrics, “I’ve been to the place / That you’ve tried escaping / I can’t recall / I’m always changing / Love overflowing”, it’s a hushed ballad that pulses with all the romance and reflection we’ve come to expect from him.
‘Harmonia’s Dream’ is the first of many blistering anthems that pack the confidence of a band at the peak of their career. It doesn’t sound like Granduciel was writing with the band’s main stage status in mind, but the album is loaded with tracks ready to conquer them. Take ‘Wasted’, a triumphant Springsteen-channeling anthem that feels like American adventure on the open road. Old memories wash up like bittersweet waves on the title track as he softly recalls: “We went to see Bob Dylan / We danced to ‘Desolation Row’ / But I don’t live here anymore / And I’ve got no place to go.” And ‘Rings Around My Father’s Eyes’ is a soul-stirring anthem that handles the emotions of fatherhood and the depth of human connection.
It’s fitting that the album closes with ‘Occasional Rain’. The song captures the overarching message at the heart of these songs, which is ultimately about embracing all the stumbles in life. Granduciel courses with all the romance that’s made The War On Drugs such an authentic voice: “Ain’t the sky just shades of grey / Until you’ve seen it from the other side? / Oh, if loving you’s the same / It’s only some occasional rain.”
Some lose sight of their heart and soul on the route to global stardom – others take it in their stride. Granduciel recently told NME that “music should be filled with wonder”, and there’s magic everywhere you look on this triumph of an album.
Release date: October 29
Record label: Atlantic