Album Review

’80s influences with contemporary beat on the War on Drugs’ ‘Slave Ambient’

By David Brusie
August 16, 2011

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The War on Drugs’ music is hard to categorize, but its influences are fun to identify: a little Springsteen here, some Dire Straits there, a pinch of New Order. But “Slave Ambient’’ is no ’80s nostalgia trip. It’s a rock album that mixes 30-year-old influences with the deep, hazy production of indie synth-poppers like M83. Opener “Best Night’’ is a perfect encapsulation of the album’s charms: A dreamlike keyboard fades in and frontman Adam Granduciel’s voice emerges from the ether, singing a melody that sounds like it was lifted from an early Bob Dylan album. The rest of “Slave Ambient’’ follows suit, combining the familiar - gentle guitar reminiscent of Mark Knopfler, the synth-flecked arrangements of “Born in the U.S.A.’’ - with unexpected modernity. A couple of instrumentals weigh down the album’s middle, but the rollicking “Baby Missiles’’ perks things up. The song represents the band’s greatest strength: keeping mystery intact just long enough. In the meantime, we all need something to hum. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Baby Missiles’’

The War on Drugs performs at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday.