The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient – review

(Secretly Canadian)

This was the year the War on Drugs won. Not only did the Philadelphia band fulfil the promise of their debut Wagonwheel Blues, but their former guitarist Kurt Vile scored with his own excellent album, Smoke Ring for my Halo. Slave Ambient makes a triumph of the unlikely premise that US heartland rock and Krautrock would mix like old friends – it is the sound, if you like, of the Neu! Street Band. Your Love Is Calling My Name hints at rockabilly, with Adam Granduciel muttering about freeways and harbours, yet the unrelenting drum pattern, the swirling synths, the shimmers of guitar somehow remove it from the US rock tradition even as it fights to return home. The most explicitly classic rock song is Baby Missiles, which – with its Danny Federici-style organs and hollers of "woo woo" – sounds like a demo for Born in the USA. It's probably not chance that its predecessor, City Reprise #12, takes a wildly different path, a huge soundscape that takes a simple keyboard melody line and repeats it: the sound not of the open motorway of the Motorik beat, but the ringroads and bypasses of the city driver. A wonderful record.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient – review
A winning combination of Dylanesque vocals and ambient grooves makes the War on Drugs's second album a trip to remember, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

13, Aug, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
The War on Drugs review – triumphant, molten heartbreak music
Brixton Academy, London
Adam Granduciel’s fractured, soul-spilling songs move beyond ragged-glory Americana into rhythmic, sparky epics tonight

Ian Gittins

03, Mar, 2015 @12:04 PM

Wilco, Wilco (the Album)

It's hard to shake the feeling that there are a lot more exciting things happening in rock'n'roll these days than Wilco, says Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes

25, Jun, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
My Morning Jacket: 'We had to work it out ourselves'

They started out in a barn in Kentucky, and became one of rock's great cult success stories. My Morning Jacket's Jim James talks to Stevie Chick about music, death and the Muppets

Stevie Chick

27, Oct, 2011 @8:30 PM

Article image
The Decemberists: The changing of the seasons

A year ago, the Decemberists' Colin Meloy retreated to a house in the woods of northern Oregon. He tells Laura Barton about the effect it has had on him, his family and his music

Laura Barton

06, Jan, 2011 @9:30 PM

Kassidy: Hope St – review
Hold on to your kaftans, it's the Glaswegian Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. By Michael Hann

Michael Hann

17, Mar, 2011 @11:59 PM

Other Lives: Tamer Animals – review
Dave Simpson is transported by sublime Americana from these majestic Oklahomans

Dave Simpson

01, Sep, 2011 @8:59 PM

CD: Giant Sand, Provisions

Singer Howe Gelb has become synonymous with Americana and the sound of the Arizona desert

Dave Simpson

05, Sep, 2008 @11:26 AM

Dan Mangan: Oh Fortune – review

Maddy Costa celebrates Dan Mangan's fleetness of expression and glowing melodies

Maddy Costa

01, Dec, 2011 @11:00 PM

Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire – review
Ryan Adams's talent comes sharply back into focus on this stripped-back album, says Michael Hann

Michael Hann

06, Oct, 2011 @8:59 PM