The War on Drugs’ single, “Pain” reaches No. 1

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American indie rock band, The War on Drugs, has accomplished a new milestone. The band’s single “Pain” from their acclaimed 2017 album “A Deeper Understanding,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Chart.

This is a breakthrough for the Philadelphia-based band. Billboard.com reports that previously, the band’s singles had reached as high as No. 3 on any Billboard chart. The latest album, “A Deeper Understanding,” made its way to No. 2. on Top Rock Albums and Alternative Albums. This is the band’s first time at No. 1 on any chart, billboard.com reports.

The accomplishment signals perhaps that the band’s message is resonating with more people. “Pain” is a thoughtful and carefully nuanced song. That it has reached the top of a chart means that it has successfully competed against other songs that might be more traditional or straightforward.

About The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs formed in Philadelphia in 2005. The band consists of singer and composer Adam Granduciel, bass player David Hartley, keyboardist Robbie Bennett, drummer Charlie Hall, saxophonist and keyboardist John Natchez and guitarist Anthony LaMarca.

The band’s first album,”Wagonwheel Blues” was released in 2008, and by 2011, the band had earned critical acclaim and an increasingly ardent fan base. The rave reviews came as a result of the response to their second album, “Slave Ambient.”

The War on Drugs toured extensively in their early days and continues to do so. They released a third album, “Lost in the Dream” in 2014. The band’s 2017 album is their fourth and most recent.

The band’s habit of touring extensively has helped fans get to know who they are. The result has been increasingly popular albums.

“Pain” by The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs’ sound on “Pain” can be described as jangling ambient. A soundscape that mixes elements of contemporary alternative rock with that of alternative rock from the 1980s.

“Pain’s” video is beautifully filmed in a sort of silvery grayscale. The scenes switch between those of the band and those of the people of Philadelphia. There is a down-to-earth feel to the project and Granduciel’s almost reticent voice is quiet as he makes his observations. And it is the observations that give “Pain” it’s strength.

The gentle electric jangle serves as a perfect backdrop to Granduciel’s narrative. Still, listeners are encouraged (subliminally) to lean in to glean every meaningful description.

Lines like “Hang your head and let me in, I’m waiting,” and “I met a man with a broken back, he had a fear in his eyes that I could understand,” let audiences know that “Pain” is no ordinary rock song. Its ethos seems to borrow not so much from music (always) but from literature. The surrealistic poem, the moody modern novel can be heard in the lines of “Pain.”

But, The War on Drugs is a band, and there are some similarities between the band and the English band Marillion, which was popular in the 1980s. The bands show a capacity for songs that are specific to the performers but universal for listeners. The unusual observations and unique phrasing elevate the songs above the standard for rock songs, alternative or not.

The beauty and depth of “Pain” are certainly what fans are responding to. The band’s recent success milestone holds the promise of more interesting things to come from The War on Drugs.

 

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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