THE WAR ON DRUGS / WEIRD DREAMS Sound Control, Manchester 27 February 2012 

American quartet Weird Dreams sound a little like Dinosaur Jr. circa “Freak Scene” might’ve done with all that noise and distortion shaved off to reveal the clean and shiny pop heart beating beneath, although at least one tune has me thinking they’re about to propel themselves into a cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation”.

On record The War On Drugs are a colossal if repetitious collision between Tom Petty and My Bloody Valentine, rootsy arena rock liberally daubed with sugar-frosted sonic textures. It’s a tall order to expect a perfect reproduction of that sound live, especially in a small venue such as Sound Control (yet another of the little venues that have sprung up in Manchester over the last few years, being a well-propelled stone’s throw from both FAC251 and The Deaf Institute). And, surprise surprise, The War On Drugs get only partway there, the weakest link being that Adam Granduciel’s Neil Young/Wayne Coyne/Jonathan Donahue-esque vocals are as buried and inarticulate as his enthusiastic between-song pronouncements. Accusatory fingers could also be pointed at the band’s penchant for feedback-raddled experimentation, muddying the relative clarity of the recorded versions. Many great tunes are played, those from fine recent album “Slave Ambient” including “Baby Missiles”, “Brothers” and “Blackwater Falls”, but when they introduce something that sounds indistinguishable from their own material as a Waterboys cover, well, I dunno if that’s a blessing or a curse.