JOHN TRON DAVIDSON
For those not in the know, Hercules Morse is a New Zealand-based, horse-sized fictional dog. This writer is not aware if the band know this, but a more accurate comparison would be difficult to come by. A disarmingly charming four-piece with a good sense of humour and plenty of intelligence, HERCULES MORSE offer up their third record, Vita Boundary.
The Southampton quartet have an unusual sound going on alright. Though they've been compared to the FOO FIGHTERS and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, there's bits of FEEDER in here, not to mention oft-forgotten monsters 3 COLOURS RED and even, dare it be said, CAMEL. Yes, 'The Story Goes' has a melody and accompanying vocal harmony that reminds your writer of 'Lady Fantasy', which is always a good thing.
Melody is a key factor on Vita Boundary, as it was on the bands' previous records Edge Of Life and the fabulously titled Equine Size Comparison. While both those records had the same heft to the riffs - albeit with a less muscular production - they also possessed a jocular, self-effacing quality which is absent from this new work. That previous sense of slight apology has been replaced with a mature self-awareness, and from the off it's apparent this isn't going to be an album about holding hands or necking Chivas Regal.
There's a palpable sadness running through Vita Boundary, with the lyrics stating outright on a number of tracks that the mind of the narrator or some other individual is in jeopardy. On the laconically grim 'War Within' our protagonist wonders if their inability to conquer their thoughts has destroyed their life; 'Cuckoo' tries its best to be playful with the idea of madness, and the thumping 'Can't See The Sunrise' is confident that there can be no silver lining to the clouds.
The absence of harsh vocals of any kind on a record that's sonically pretty beefy is welcome. There's a real weight here that speaks very softly, its burden all the heavier because of its gentle nature. Those of you who read about the comparisons to Grohl and Homme's respective groups won't be short on things to get chuffed about, but Hercules Morse are their own band, with their Beach Boys harmonies and their big, thought-out sound.
It can take a long time for musicians to get to where they need to be, to the point where they truly become themselves. Going back to older songs like 'Good Old Days', that jovial side of the Morse has waned, and in its place is a darker, heavier band, closer to dusk than a summer afternoon. What might have transpired in the groups' life to facilitate such a shift is difficult to posit, but there's a slight bitterness to the likes of 'Talk Me Down', and while vocalist Steve is hardly Glen Benton he's definitely drinking from a deeper well than on previous releases.
The shift in feel evidenced by the circling 'Clockwork' gives the impression that the band are beginning to stand independently, away from being just a vibrant collation of influences. This album showcases a group of musicians that have played together, not just in the same band, and that real honest effort has gone into them evolving. Sure, there's a couple of moments when their peers peek through and those early comparisons are easier to see, but this is a fine, fine record of which Hercules Morse should be truly proud. Excellent.
Steve - Vocals/Guitar
Paul - Bass
Harry - Guitar/Vocals
Gizmo - Drums
Everything Is Great
Talk Me Down
Can't See The Sunshine
The Story Goes
Go For Broke