Review: The War on Drugs - Wagonwheel Blues
Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: June 17, 2008
Just because an artist has done all that can be expected of him and has earned the right to rest on his laurels, doesn't mean the work he started is done. So it is with Bob Dylan and The War on Drugs has picked up the cause and put their own spin on it with Wagonwheel Blues.
The album doesn't always sound just like Dylan (though the vocals always stick to Dylan's crazy, can't-sing-but-I-can-still-pull-it-off-better-than-anybody style). At times the band sounds like the meeting of the Jayhawks and the Velvet Underground. At others, they lean toward the Smiths (fronted by Dylan and not so mopey) or space rock (also fronted by Dylan). They get big and bombastic like Springsteen (if he had Dylan's voice) at one point. They even deal in noisy guitar pop at times. But whether they're being laid-back and folky or echoey and noisy, the Dylan in them rings true.
It's tempting to assume that it's just Adam Granduciel's voice that draws those comparisons, but the reality is that goes beyond that. The cadence of his voice with the music is off-kilter and the words forced to break the meter and rhyme which really serves to emphasize the lyrics that are rich with imagery and clear pictures of places I've never been, but feel like I now know. Of course, Dylan did that too. Around each corner, the album offers some subtle or not-so-subtle angle, staying both interesting and true to itself. Again, that's Dylan.
It's interesting, because a Dylan rip-off would just be annoying, but that's not what we have here. Wagonwheel Blues is just picking up the unfinished work of a great artist and forging ahead in its own direction with that artist's spirit and with a good bit of his creativity as well.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.