The War On Drugs
I Don't Live Here Anymore


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
October 29th, 2021 | 193 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The War on Drugs reborn and simplified, but basically just as good.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore is in many ways an album about transformation. In the time since we last heard Granduciel (2017’s A Deeper Understanding), Adam became a father and endured the pandemic – two life-altering events. It’s no wonder then that his band’s fifth full-length LP sounds just a little bit different than what we’re used to hearing from the Philadelphia rock sextet. The lengthy psychedelic sections and winding guitar solos of the last two records are largely absent; in fact, Granduciel allegedly cut a thirty-two minute epic from the album’s final pressing. Whether that strikes you as good or bad news will likely inform your opinion of I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which comes to us as a slimmer and sleeker incarnation of The War on Drugs. Everything here is more pronounced and tangible – choruses take hold in more obvious ways, and there’s an emphasis on cleaner, tighter, and more efficient songwriting. It’s less “Lost in the Dream” and more “Found in the Now”. Thus, I Don’t Live Here Anymore serves as something of a mission statement; but just like someone who’s picked their life by moving to a new city, they’re still the product of their past self. In this case, The War on Drugs maintain the signature sound that they’ve meticulously and painstakingly curated over the last decade-plus – that steady backbeat, the waves of synths and guitars, the Americana-inspired vocals – and they apply it to their most forthright batch of songs to date.

While I Don’t Live Here Anymore largely scraps the longhand form that led us to career highlights like ‘Under the Pressure’ or ‘Thinking of a Place’, it also manages to surprise us in some brand new ways. The title track, for example, is quite unlike anything we’ve heard from The War on Drugs before. It’s a succinct and brilliantly infectious stadium-rocker, featuring backing vocals from the indie-pop outfit Lucius that fit like a warm glove while serving as the perfect complement to Granduciel’s lower register. It’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into the song’s groove, but lines like “Is life just dying in slow motion, or getting stronger every day?” only make it easier. Considering where The War on Drugs were on the heels of A Deeper Understanding – stuck in a cycle of infinite refinement and formula-tweaking – it’s easy to see why the band took a song like ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and decided to pursue an album’s worth of chasing that feeling. They strike gold again on ‘Victim’, a towering rocker with radiant piano flourishes and an unforgettable series of blistering riffs that together land the song among Granduciel’s best. ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait’ is an uncharacteristically brooding slow-burner with its slinking electronic backdrop, announcing early that the record won’t be just another thoughtful drive up the coast. Adam layers his vocals in a way I’m pretty sure he’s never done before on ‘Harmonia’s Dream’, lending each word a chiseled boldness and a crisp air of profundity. ‘Old Skin’ slowly gathers momentum until it culminates in a well-placed harmonica binge that helps differentiate it from similar folkish cuts in The War on Drugs’ catalog. All of these moments make I Don’t Live Here Anymore well worth the cost of departure; this band has never been about re-inventing the wheel, but another album in the same vein as Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding certainly would have trekked down the path of diminished returns. Even if I Don’t Live Here Anymore simplifies the playbook, it at least introduces enough wrinkles into The War on Drugs’ carefully thought-out formula to once again spark genuine intrigue on a song-by-song basis.

A colleague of mine who reviewed this band’s previous two records referred to Lost in the Dream as their spaghetti western and A Deeper Understanding as their IMAX epic. In this analogy, those albums act as thoroughly enjoyable films that we eagerly re-watch even though we already know the ending. I Don’t Live Here Anymore is sort of like watching a reboot of the series decades later. There’s a lot of comforting familiarity, and perhaps the special effects have been spruced-up, but ultimately it’s a fresh take on a tried-and-true piece. Like many reboots, I’m not convinced that I Don’t Live Here Anymore ultimately lives up to its billing – but it’s a well-done product with enough differences to make it worthwhile for both new and old fans alike. Years from now I’m sure we’ll still be returning to Lost in the Dream as The War on Drugs’ indelible classic, but that doesn’t mean that I Don’t Live Here Anymore won’t possess its own well-deserved audience.



s
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user ratings (154)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
alexslavco
October 29th 2021


190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Slightly disappointing effort i must say. Lyrics are OK, but instrumentally they unfortunately don't go as far as they went on Deeper Understanding. What am I totally missing is a 7+ minute epic song. Although 'Victim' is one of the best songs band has ever produced, absolutely spectacular.

Pikazilla
October 29th 2021


28984 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

can't believe this is the same band that made litd

markjamie
October 29th 2021


604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a really well-written review. Enjoying the album too.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2021


25643 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Is there anything as life-changing as that synth riff from "Strangest Thing" on here?

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2021


18788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is p good

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2021


18788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

More like the 4 on drugs

Pikazilla
October 29th 2021


28984 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

yoyo on drugs

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2021


5637 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"More like the 4 on drugs"-LOL, nice



Was slightly disappointed with this on first listen, but I'm a big fan of the band and did find plenty to like

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2021


18241 Comments


Missed opportunity for a sput-grade summary there.

TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
October 29th 2021


20949 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review Sow!

Solid release but I prefer the last three. They’ve mostly exorcised the dreamy shoegaze side and simplified things without actually changing much about their core sound. I do enjoy it all to varying degrees, like with A Deeper Understanding. I hope they don’t keep watering themselves down tho in the future and become yet another average indie band.

My favs are Harmonia’s Dream, Victim, and Occasional Rain. Where can I hear that 35-minute epic?!

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2021


24228 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I’m somewhat underwhelmed by this on first go. Hoping it’ll grow.

Sowing
Moderator
October 29th 2021


43745 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I'm in agreement that this isn't as good as their last few, but I'm not sure that yet another album in that style would have fared any better. Plus I wouldn't characterize this as a huge drop-off from A Deeper Understanding. All in all, I'm okay with this tweak in their formula... for now. It's got some really memorable songs.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2021


47484 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

would bet my entire paycheck that the 30-minute song they cut from this is infinitely more interesting than the warmed-over stuff on the album

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2021


9640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cool review, I like their previous albums better but I do feel like there's lots to like here.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2021


47484 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@colton nice. where you up to? you may be tempted to quit in s2 but good god it gets so much better. the last season is borderline masterpiece tier

onionbubs
October 30th 2021


19849 Comments


oh shit just realized thats a mr robot reference i myself am currently in the midst of my first watch (like 4 episodes deep into s2)

Storm In A Teacup
October 30th 2021


45252 Comments


Have always assumed this band wasn't for me

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2021


9640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Well you like Dylan and Fleetwood Mac, try Lost in the Dream, which is probably their most universally loved album (the debut is actually very Dylan worship, they define their own thing in the next two records).

DoofDoof
October 30th 2021


14488 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I’m glad they released a pop album that harks back to Slave Ambient - the guitar wig outs on the last album got tedious for me



I know some people loved the wig outs but meh, this might be their best given time - because Slave Ambient is only half a proper album of quality songs deep down and Lost in the Dream sometimes, uh, loses me before it concludes.



Dunno, this is up there with those two anyway.

DoofDoof
October 30th 2021


14488 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First song is a little unexpected, it ‘does a Wilco’ and maybe better than a lot of recent Wilco. Super sad.



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