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War on Drugs Is Americana

You often hear the word “Americana” thrown around when music shows the influence of blues, folk, country, and old-time rock ’n’ roll. Those are all great ingredients, but why stop there? Why is jazz not “Americana”? Why isn’t hip-hop or hardcore punk? In the song “American Music,” the Violent Femmes sang, “Every time I look at that ugly lake, it reminds me of me.” That’s what Americana should be — something that reminds us of ourselves, even if it is sometimes ugly.

The War on Drugs combines country-ish guitars and freight-train rhythms with atmospheric indie-rock weirdness. The band came together in Philadelphia about six years ago after Oakland resident Adam Granduciel moved to the East Coast and met another songwriter named Kurt Vile. The two reportedly bonded over a shared love of Bob Dylan, whose influence shows up primarily in their often-cynical lyrics and their shared habit of sneering through their vocals. After Vile left for a rewarding solo career in 2008, Granduciel began playing up the electronics and hazy effects in his music.

Today, critics twist themselves in knots trying to decide whether the War on Drugs sounds more like Bruce Springsteen or the Velvet Underground. It doesn’t much resemble either one. Nor does it sound a lot like Wilco, a band that works with similar influences. The War on Drugs just sounds like the work of someone re-creating American music in his own image, and doing it in a way that’s graceful.

Purling Hiss and Carter Tanton also perform.

THE WAR ON DRUGS: Soda Bar, Friday, October 21, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8–$10.

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You often hear the word “Americana” thrown around when music shows the influence of blues, folk, country, and old-time rock ’n’ roll. Those are all great ingredients, but why stop there? Why is jazz not “Americana”? Why isn’t hip-hop or hardcore punk? In the song “American Music,” the Violent Femmes sang, “Every time I look at that ugly lake, it reminds me of me.” That’s what Americana should be — something that reminds us of ourselves, even if it is sometimes ugly.

The War on Drugs combines country-ish guitars and freight-train rhythms with atmospheric indie-rock weirdness. The band came together in Philadelphia about six years ago after Oakland resident Adam Granduciel moved to the East Coast and met another songwriter named Kurt Vile. The two reportedly bonded over a shared love of Bob Dylan, whose influence shows up primarily in their often-cynical lyrics and their shared habit of sneering through their vocals. After Vile left for a rewarding solo career in 2008, Granduciel began playing up the electronics and hazy effects in his music.

Today, critics twist themselves in knots trying to decide whether the War on Drugs sounds more like Bruce Springsteen or the Velvet Underground. It doesn’t much resemble either one. Nor does it sound a lot like Wilco, a band that works with similar influences. The War on Drugs just sounds like the work of someone re-creating American music in his own image, and doing it in a way that’s graceful.

Purling Hiss and Carter Tanton also perform.

THE WAR ON DRUGS: Soda Bar, Friday, October 21, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8–$10.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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