Slave Ambient, by War on Drugs (Album of the Week)

This album was Robin’s choice for our series (we alternate), and I’m glad she did. I don’t think I would have happened upon them otherwise, or if I had stumbled across a track, I don’t think I would have noticed how really good they are. This album is solid rock and roll, but it’s not designed to grab you and make you pay attention.

Part of the issue is that the influences on this group shine clearly. The first song, “Best Night”, is Tom Petty. The second one, “Brothers”, is Bob Dylan. The third, “I Was There”, is Neil Young. You could make a parlor game ripping sounds out of this album and assigning them to classic rockers. I even caught a bit of Joe Jackson in one of the songs.

But that’s kind of unfair, I think. The music feels authentic – it’s not like they found a trunk full of sounds in the attic and just tossed them together to appeal to my nostalgic demographic. The album has urgency, built with steady, steady beats and all kinds of embellishments, from electronica to some crisp guitar work. It’s kind of unusual to hear the sounds that could come from a synthesizer band popping up in a straightforward rock song, but it works.

All that said, this album somehow just misses for me. Something is missing. Maybe it’s the lack of a ringing chorus to hang on to, or maybe it’s the pretty smoothing over of the synthesizer work, but I can listen to most of this album without bobbing my head or wanting to sing along. There’s nothing wrong with this album, but it doesn’t grab me. It doesn’t annoy or offend me in any way, but it isn’t compelling. I can’t imagine anyone listening to any of these songs and saying “You’ve GOT to listen to this.” On the other hand, I can’t imagine anyone snapping off the radio when one of these songs come on.

This album just kind of takes up space, reminding you of its influences, but not rising to their level.

Robin, with her tendency to research deeper than I do, comes up with a more informed review, but, ultimately, she agrees that it is ambient music that kind of slips by you if you don’t work extra-hard to pay attention.

Next up, Small Town Heroes, by Hurray for the Riff Raff

One Response to “Slave Ambient, by War on Drugs (Album of the Week)”

  1. [...] has written what he thinks about this over on Gone Mild, and once again, our opinions are pretty [...]

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