Review Summary: a continuation on a style we will come to love the War on Drugs for: no urgency.
If there was one thing to learn from The War on Drugs on Wagonwheel Blues
, it was that the musical ‘epic’ is a loose term. The War on Drugs, counter-productive as ever, make a different kind of epic from their influences. Rather than blazing in and out, and with a fair middle, these guys would have their epics spit and splutter from all sides, eventually stumbling into a too-darn-humble conclusion. No drama, just a slow and steady exploration of everything they can pull off, be it folk or, dare I say it, shoegaze. And Future Weather
is such a great continuation because it comes across like blueprints for future epics, without the huge lengths for the most part, but going nowhere like it’s a statement: keep it moody, keep it shapeless.
Yes, they still love Bob Dylan and, more broadly, they love Americana, but they prefer it twisted. And that shows more than ever on Future Weather
, which treads similar ground to a couple off their debut proper: “There Is No Urgency” and “Show Me The Coast,” those distorted, wandering tracks, those frauds of folk, are reflected generously here, with tracks that keep that genre’s feeling but take away its conventions. There aren’t any choruses or stand-alone lines to refer back to, which takes them away from traditionalists like Dylan with immediacy. Instead they plough ever forward: “Brothers” drones onwards with guitar-play playful and lyrics spoken formlessly. “A Pile of Tires” follows one dreamy sequence of electric plucks to its unexpected death. And then there’s “The History of Plastic,” which has a handful of endings that mosey on from its messy beginning notes. It’s ambitious stuff, Future Weather
, because it challenges the entire band to make itself scarce, and each member responds: there’s the out-of-place (and brilliant) percussion that thumps through the final track, and there’s also Granduciel presenting his lyrics of woe (“I’ve been a fighter for you”) with little interest in making a snug fit for the guys around him. Nothing much fits, and that’s what these guys ride on.
is their most reflective material yet. It doesn’t drive towards anything in the same way their anthems do, and really, its only attempt is in vein: “Baby Missiles,” the only track with as much bite as “Arms Like Boulders” or “Taking the Farm,” sounds more cut and pasted than revisited. But when this band revisit (and they love to, if their obsession with numbering songs is anything to go by), it’s better for them to revisit a feeling rather than a style. For the most part, Future Weather
takes a second look at what makes the War on Drugs feel so down, and the result is a moody, contemplative set of songs, culminating in their most reverb-heavy, angsty track yet. Once again, the EP has its corners coloured in with wordless reprises, maybe because they don’t have enough material to put out, maybe because they really love playing with guitars and ambience, or maybe because this is just throwaway EP stuff. But I like to think it’s because they’re sticking to their notes and their themes: Future Weather
is, in bulk, a record turned inside-out, pissed-off Americana done brilliantly wrong.