HMS Morris, Perfect Body and Zac White – The Social – March 12th 2019

For too many years to mention, I’ve been a fan of Dorchester Town football club. Just to be clear, they are not an obscure band that you really must listen to. They are my football team (along with Leicester City FC). Strangely, I’ve rarely talked football within this blog; from a Dorchester perspective, there’s been slim pickings to post about in truth.

Tonight, I went along to the Social. It’s hard to believe that it’s now a whole month since I saw Peaness there with Gary (review here) but it must be because the next Huw Stephens presents instalment is in town (even if he isn’t). Tonight he’s joined up with the Bubblewrap Collective, a well-regarded indie record label from Cardiff to give us three new Welsh acts. 

It seems all sorts of appropriate (to me anyway) that I’m keeping myself updated with Dorchester scores every time I make a note into my phone about the acts on stage; for tonight, DTFC are playing away at Merthyr Tydfil FC. When HMS Morris, the headliner of sorts, play songs about self love in Welsh or banter in the language with a countryman in the crowd, I allow myself a little chuckle. Dorchester, relegation candidates in a tight league, are crashing the goals in up in the valleys. It ends 7-1 and even the one for Merthyr was an own goal.

Zac White opens the Bubblewrap gig at the Social. It’s just Zac on the small stage with an electric guitar that’s set to a permanent reverb. The vibe is psychedelic; Zac’s long floppy hair for the most part obscures his face as he meanders through his set of fuzzed-up folk. He’s got a decent line in desperate and longing lyric; anybody able to rhyme ‘tourniquet’ with ‘tanqueray’ gets top marks in my book. He doesn’t have much to say in terms of between-song banter; in fact all he says is “I should have probably said but that was my last song”, as his set draws to a premature close. Despite the awkward stage manner, there’s enough craft on display to warrant further investigation. 

 

There’s a definite buzz about Perfect Body. You can’t help but notice the five piece (and entourage) as they waltz around the Social pre-gig and think ‘they’re in a band’. It’s not that there’s any arrogance about their behaviour; they’re all wonderfully polite, stylishly aware and evidently determined. Record company executives from significant indies are casually drawn into conversations before their set even begins.

When it does begin, the start is determinedly slow, deliberately ponderous. It’s music for wide vistas; perhaps we’re scanning across the outback in the opening scenes of a modern Western or seeing the setting sun over desert dunes. There’s longing in the languid guitar licks. This is the Welsh Wild West. 

When Perfect Body get fully into flow, their thing is dreamy shoegaze. They do it very well. Vocals from a keyboard player and a guitarist are barely audible over the shimmering noise that’s being created by the rest of the band. We’re probably not supposed to hear the words. It’d be easy (and lazy on my part) to draw comparisons to My Bloody Valentine so I won’t do that. Suffice to say, as the swirly atmospherics draw you in, you suddenly become aware of quite how loud the volume’s been turned up to. I move closer to the front to get more of the effect.

 

HMS Morris are a tough act to review. They’re not as easy to place or pigeonhole as many who have gone before and that should be a good thing. They’re a three-piece. Singer and guitarist, Heledd Watkins, plays for goals up front whilst the impressively bearded Sam Roberts holds it all together in midfield with samples and keyboards. Drummer, Alex Møller, sits behind in defence.

I can’t tell if it’s just the poor mix down here at the Social or if the piercing sound of the high-hat is intended but it hurts. My mind wanders and I begin to think how much more of a pleasant experience this could be without the drums in the mix. Seriously, it’s like fingernails scratching down the chalk-board. 

When HMS Morris’ music properly flows you can’t help but enjoy. But, for me, this is art-rock that rarely gets going. I’d make a point of watching them another time though as they’re not without appeal. 

See you all at the Burger King at Reading Services”, suggests Heledd, conscious that many of the crowd here are on a day trip and they’ll soon be travelling home back up the M4. 

The victorious DTFC team coach probably won’t pass them on the way.. But I’ll bet it’ll be a happier bus ride home for them.