It’s The On and Ons Calling - The On and Ons (Citadel)
A couple of listens in and it’s evident why Paul Collins recruited the core of this band to back him on his Australian tours. The On and Ons play classic guitar pop in the mould of The Plimsouls, the Flamin’ Groovies in their Beatles-besotted era and Collins’ own The Beat.
This is a band that walks down the pop side of the street. If lineage counts, The On and Ons start with a considerable advantage over many others. The members’ rap sheets include the early Hoodoo Gurus, the latter-day Screaming Tribesmen, Kings of the Sun, The Barbarellas and The Stems. To paraphrase Lou: Their powerpop day beats your year.
The beating heart of the Ons and Ons is guitarist Glenn Morris, sole songwriter and veteran of a thousand pub stages with the Tribesmen and Kings of the Sun. In his spare time Morris leads The Zeroes, a southern Sydney jukebox of ‘80s underground rock.
Carving out an audience playing songs that most of the suburbs have forgotten is one thing but launching a band specialising in something as unfashionable as Guitar Pop is another. Triple Jay will look the other way, of course, but that’s not relevant.That “It’s the Ons and Ons Calling” works is testament to Morris’s songs and the players around him.
Glenn’s brother Brian on drums and original Gurus bassist Clyde Bramley lay down the required rhythm bed so Morris, rhythmeister Jon Roberts (Barbarellas) and Richard Lane (ex-Stems) can go to work on guitars. Lane adds colouring on keys. Glenn’s economical lead guitar is complemented by his melodic voice and of course he’s written songs to suit.
Lead track “All Over Heavenly (You’re My Everything)” is heralded by some scorched earth guitar and a hook worth bottling.”Long Ride” is unabashed pop rock that probably needed Lane’s keys more prominent in the mix. That omission is corrected on the New Wave-ish “Don’t Tear Me Down” where Glenn’s plaintive vocal straddles a great feel.
“Stupid Girl” (not the Stones song) ups the bottom end ante to cross into rock territory but for the most part - on record at least - the On and Ons dwell in the powerpopn space that provided oxygen for a thousand ‘80s bands before grunge and the charge of the major label chequebooks lamentably drove them further underground.
The catchy “Better Not Give Me Grief” is as good a powerpop song as you’ll hear this year or any other. Even Greg Shaw would have been impressed by the cascading melody and “ahhh-ahhhs”. Let your CD player’s repeat button convince you. “Before Our Eyes” also shows Morris’ hook-laden songwriting talents to the max and “Goodbye My Love” isn’t far behind it. "Hard To Say Goodbye" is an appropriately rebgretful closer but it's cut down before it ends properly by a mastering error.
Production is by Dennis Wilson (of legendary Oz prog rockers Kavas Jute) is transparent with the appropriate light touch. The album’s on Citadel and that’s significant because the label has been undergoing something of a shift. Mostly operating as a heritage imprint, releases by the Ons and Ons, Joeys Coop and Orange Humble Band are putting an increasingly contemporary complexion on the catalogue. Buy this album and help Brother John retire to the Maldives (or at least repair his house’s leaky gutter.)