The War on Drugs / Weird Dreams @ Stereo, 26 February

Live Review by Fred Weedon | 14 Mar 2012

London’s Weird Dreams open to a large turnout, and despite the miserable Sunday rain outside, offer a sunny escape to a Californian soft garage pop-rock vibe, like what might happen if XTC went surfing with The Zombies. Not particularly new, then, but not particularly offensive either; their songs remain infectious, with a particularly inventive rhythm section, although the surf rock shtick may be a throwback too many.

Stereo’s seemingly distant stage is perfect for Philadelphians The War on Drugs, with their long, driving, Krautrock-like rhythms atop five minute long hazy, reverberating guitar solos and Adam Granduciel’s soft, smoky voice. You can picture them playing on the back of a pick-up truck, roaring along a desolate Nebraska highway in some panoramic road movie.

Their music retains clear parallels with that of original guitarist Kurt Vile; the pulsating synths and steady rhythms add up to a calmly soporific affair, the only antidote to which is the piercingly loud harmonica employed at opportune moments. The material from their two long players to date does seem to seamlessly merge at a point, and not even a Waterboys cover – much to the adulation of the crowd – brings any real danger to the timid nature of their catalogue tonight. Pleasant enough, but not quite yet the gripping force they threaten to become.