Since their outset, The War On Drugs’ music has always carried the tangible feeling of movement; the unwavering momentum towards some dreamed about place just over the horizon. And, with each passing album, the mode of transport has grown in size, spaciousness, and luxury; on Wagonwheel Blues we were in a rickety, rumbling cart moving back and forth across the continent; Slave Ambient saw the move to a proper motor vehicle, albeit one with plenty of mileage already on the board and a stereo that only got intermittent radio transmissions; Lost In The Dream was the move to high-class, reliable and comfortable car. Now we have A Deeper Understanding, which opens with a purr of the engine, as the grand drums first ignite – but despite their obvious power, they are not overwhelming, they’re perfectly in control. This is the chauffeur-driven Bentley of rock albums.

It is this expert production that Adam Granduciel has managed to cultivate throughout A Deeper Understanding that takes it above just another rock album and beyond just another album full of hope and nostalgia. With over half a dozen different instruments being played at any time on any song, it is thoroughly impressive how clean and clear the music and its message comes through; Granduciel’s roving guitar is the constant arbiter of emotion – along with his voice – but it would never be able to be so expressive and fraut without the security and resolute stability of the rest of the band, particularly the rhythm section. This means that there’s a freneticism during the eyes-on-the horizon sprints of ‘Pain’, where the guitars seem to be soloing for the final three minutes, further fattening and moaning as the emotion curdles; or ‘Holding On’, where it is the loping guitar that rides out ahead of the onrushing band, like a standard bearer announcing their unperturbed march. Here the bass guitar is constantly the unsung hero, as it works in the slipstream of the flashier, obvious elements, but its melodicism is just as crucial to the playfulness and finesse of the overall sound.

With this grand and behemoth-like sound at his back, Granduciel’s lyrics and emotions are buoyed to a level of infiniteness that the music suggests. The Springsteen comparison is as valid as ever, but whereas The Boss’ work dealt with daily toil and grittiness, The War On Drugs' is elevated out of those quotidian feelings and into something universal and fantastical. Granduciel's constant mental searching, whether it’s back into his memories, or ahead to his desires, is given extra clarity thanks to the endlessness of the surroundings. This comes clearly through on the statelier tracks, like ‘Strangest Thing’, where he asks “Am I just living in the space between/ the beauty and the pain/ and the real thing?” and you can feel, in the monumental riff that re-occurs through the song bigger and bolder each time, both the extremes that he’s singing of. The extra surge of electricity that the band adds to the lyrics can take something simple and make it epic; the hook of ‘Knocked Down’ (“I wanna love you but I get knocked down”) isn’t the most original, but atop the pyramid of passion built by unbreakable instrumental blocks, it becomes something to which we all have memories that connect us, feeling his anguish like our own. Even in songs where his depth of sadness leads to something melodramatic, like ‘In Chains’, the beautiful and palatial sound of the band carries it with ease, making it seem natural and truly human.

The most transportative of all the moments on this album is the 11-minute single originally released back in April, ‘Thinking Of A Place’. Across the extended length it sashays in and out of temporal, metaphysical and metaphorical spaces, with Granduciel’s words floating out like a breeze swirling across a desert. He’s “thinking of a place/ and it feels so very real/ just moving in the dark,” and through the gentle washes of synth we feel as though we can see it too, sparkling in the distance. Then the guitars come rumbling back in: morning has come and it’s time to get back on the road and keep moving towards that unfindable place.

It’s not all heartache on A Deeper Understanding though, as ‘Clean Living’ gives us a glimpse of peace at the end of all this wandering: “I went away, came back/ show me that you noticed/ been such a lonely time/ but I ain’t giving in/ I know my way around it/ I've been doing alright/ and I don't need it back,” and with the most infinite-sounding harmonica played atop it, you get that real classic country music feeling of a man returning to his rightful place. It is perhaps the sexiest thing the band has ever made, and Granduciel sounds his most satisfied.

He should feel greatly satisfied, overall though, when he takes a step back and looks at A Deeper Understanding as an overall piece – which is how it should be consumed. He has further upgraded, re-geared and honed the sound The War On Drugs have been working towards, taking the style and vision of 80s rock titans and updating it to something that sounds truly modern, but with that nostalgic haze. It resulted on a surprise smash sleeper hit on Lost In The Dream, and it seems like that’ll only result in more praise and bigger audiences for A Deeper Understanding, which is exactly what its colossal and endless soundscapes demand.