They're back for more and you should be as well
Back For More – The On and Ons (Citadel)
Regular Barflies need no introduction to The On and Ons. They are Sydney’s finest power-pop exponents. Their catalogue of two prior albums and a mini-album since 2015 is as much a testament to the songwriting abilities of ex-Kings of the Sun and Screaming Tribesmen guitarist Glenn Morris as the grooves and harmonies provided by bandmates Brian Morris (drums) and Clyde Bramley.
You can judge the quality of a pop album by its earwig-ability and album opener “Vanishing Act” sticks in the brain like a dose of dopamine. Wrapped in a simple, uncluttered ‘60s sound with carefully arranged three-part harmonies, it’s punctuated by finger-clicks and Morris’s parrying guitar.
It’s far from the best shot in the barrel, however, with gems like “Be My Secret” and “I Remember You Well“ as hooky as anything the band’s released. There’s a broadening of the palette, too, on the grittier “Truth Gets Started” and some dobro on “Feel Like You Tonight” from co-producer Dennis Wilson.
Glenn Morris has a keening and slightly quavering vocal. It works. It bounces off the backing talents of his brother Brian and Bramley, and is a secret weapon that creeps up from behind and sinks its fangs in when least expected.
If the vocal interplay on the title track doesn’t knock you for six, it’s time to prepare a report for the coroner. This is a song where Glenn’s lead vocal wraps itself around the melody line and the band injects a bubble-gum inspired bridge that does no harm whatsoever.
Without doubt it’s the small touches that count for much – whether it’s the “bop-bop-ba-ba” chorus of “In and Out of Dreams” or the playful harmonics of “Your Kinda World”. A bit more grit in the mix adds a tougher edge to “Better Every Day”.
Gotta admit I thought something might go missing when rhythm guitarist Jon Roberts stepped down and left The On and Ons as a trio a few years back. That’s over-thinking for you. The songs benefit from a little more room to breathe. Still, I wouldn’t mind hearing some further augmentation down the track.
So this is an album that builds on what’s gone before and plays to the band’s strengths. Glenn’s guitar is typically understated throughout, never seeking to dominate but nonetheless powering on through with concise rhythms and the occasional subtle lick. Brian is a feel drummer, sitting in the pocket while Clyde fills the appropriate gaps with Australia’s best-sounding bass tone. Tehy are a combo and therein lies the live appeal.
Whoever declared power-pop to be dead hasn’t dug deep enough – though admittedly it can be hard to find. So hit the links below. Converts know what’s cooking but the uninitiated need to get up to speed.