Staff pick: The War on Drugs at Kemba Live

Adam Granduciel and Co. bring dad rock to the masses

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Adam Granduciel of the rock band The War On Drugs performing at Desert Daze at the Lake Perris State Recreation Area in Perris, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2021.

I know we’re probably all sick of talking about Dad Rock, but I think my kids would agree that “Rings Around My Father’s Eyes” would be a fitting theme song for me in the months since the War on Drugs released its most recent album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Everybody’s tired. I thought the eye bags were temporary, but I’m starting to think they’re here to stay (#ThisIs40).

Frontman Adam Granduciel welcomed a son into the world while making the band’s fifth album, and there are traces of that new relationship throughout the record. “I want to write about having a child, and being a dad, and seeing things in my own life and my own dad,” Granduciel told Pitchfork last year. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say other than the fact that I’m also trying to uncover something here.”

Granduciel takes big swings during that discovery process, following in the footsteps of Bruce and Bono to craft arena-ready rock songs with hooks (or sometimes just a series of verses) that might seem cliché at first blush but slowly begin to embed themselves into your brain folds in ways that reveal layered truths. They’re filled with references to oceans, darkness, light and “occasional rain” — familiar access points that anyone can reach, regardless of their station (i.e. no dad bod required). It’s supremely difficult to play rock music that’s both accessible and substantial, but the War on Drugs have it down. 

“No one really knows which way they're facing/Till they're coming back down,” Granduciel sings at the close of “Rings Around My Father’s Eyes,” sounding both wizened and wide-eyed, ready to lead and be led. 

The War on Drugs performs at Kemba Live on Friday, Feb. 4.