Welcome Aboard - The On and Ons (Citadel)
Great guitar pop is timeless and that’s what Sydney’s The On and Ons have delivered (again) on their second long-player.
Well established on the strength of their 2015 debut, “It’s The On And Ons Calling”, Morris and Co have doubled down on the pop factor on “Welcome Aboard”. The rock is turned down just a tad and (to these ears at least) it takes a few more listens for the songs to take hold.
Truth-be-told, I almost marked it down half-a-beer for not rocking as much as the debut - but the pop smarts won out.
There’s been a bit happening in The On and Ons ranks since we all last met. The band’s membership has been distilled to its core elements of Glenn Morris (guitar and vocals), brother Brian Morris (drums) Clyde Bramley (bass) and Jon Roberts (guitar), with geography making Perth-based Richard Lane a guest organist these days.
By all accounts, however, it’s more of a rounded band effort than “…Calling” That last record’s producer, Dennis Wilson, sticks to engineering and mastering this time out, with Glenn and Clyde in the big chairs. The aural results are crisp and clean. The songs are all Glenn’s.
So how does it all play out? There’s a beer resting on the third song in, the divine “Mystic Eyes”, being the one that nails it for most of you. You're hit by the strongest melody on the album, coupled with Glenn’s soaring voice, and it’s a done deal. It and the regal “To Die For”, with its climbing chorus and chiming chord-play, are rolled gold power pop.
The 12-string guitar of guest Murray Cook brings an almost elegiac touch to “Whole World” - only for Glenn to rip out his best blood-curdling Mick Medew scream (you can’t keep an ex-Tribesman down) before the tune takes an Eastern tack in the outro.
There’s a similar classic pop feel to “She’s Leaving” that takes things into Big Star territory (membership of whose fan club is a condition of residency in Sydney’s Inner-Western Delta, it seems - not that there’s anything wrong with that.) It’s a girl-leaves-boy story but the bloke doesn’t seem too fussed because he’s seen it all before.
“Can’t Avoid” kicks off with some studio chatter before spiralling off into psychedelic pop. Meticulously-arranged layered harmonies almost take it into the clouds before its ringing final chord. “(Not a) Sweet Girl” (“You used to be a sweet girl/nNw you’re a street girl”) brings us back to street level with its matter-of-fact pop.
An undercurrent of organ keeps the jaunty message song, “Not The Only One”, moving forward as a feisty guitar solo cuts in and out, before the instruments take up the obligatory weaving in the outdo.
Bubblegum can be addictive (it's a gateway drug to sour worms) and “Sugar Anne” is the mandatory sucrose fix. Any risk of the onset of a sugar coma is blown away by a lively bridge and a chorus that would do the 1910 Fruitgum Company proud. The title track? Sounds like a Dave Davies song.
Got the hang of it yet? The On And Ons have. Artificial sweeteners or Coke Zero would never substitute.