This is My Confession from Onward Chariots is one of those albums which though it does not quite light a raging fire in the belly or hold a firm grip on ones attention from start to finish, it is a release which is hard to tear away from. The band has a sound which is a delicious hybrid of indie pop and progressive rock with a continually changing wash of extra steamy additives. Because of this their debut album is a consistently intriguing and engaging release which leaves a warmth and satisfaction that cannot be denied or dismissed.
Onward Chariots is the invention of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ben Morss, an artist who has toured the world, played with Californian acid-jazz group 11:11, and arranged and played on albums for artists like Cake. He is also a music geek who has immersed himself in the sounds and creativity of Peter Bjorn & John, Belle & Sebastian, Yo La Tengo and The Beatles, a collection of artists amongst others which the album suggests have flavoured his own invention. Originally Morss recorded under the name Chariots of Tuna, which from accounts was a relatively short-lived project but in 2008 when Morss was playing in the Infinite Orchestra alongside Dan Davine (drums), Shawn Setaro (guitar), and Rus Wimbish (bass), the quartet came together to create melodic intricacies of pop which they mutually longed to make. This moment in time was the first official steps of Onward Chariots. The following year saw three songs posted online which led to strong responses and acclaim worldwide through blogs and fans with the band being compared to the likes of The Beach Boys, Beulah, The Shins and Belle and Sebastian. Festival appearances and radio play earned the band further recognition over the subsequent years leading to through Skipping Stones Records the unveiling of their first release.
The album is themed by the concept of boy meets girl, the tracks playing with premises and emotions from the varied teases of love. It begins with the golden showers of sonic elegance brought by the semi instrumental Opening. Twinkling melodies, warm harmonies, and brass borne kisses light the sky before a fiery energy intervenes to lead into This Is My Confession I. A wonderful throaty guitar sound introduces the track to remind of the first days of Killing Joke before opening into a pungent press of heavy rock sturdiness and the welcoming vocal lilt of Morss. Into its stride the song is an insistent and magnetic pleasure with an equal depth of sinewy allure and infectious melodic teasing.
The following Mel Gibson is a lighter pop rock romp with plays like a mix of Weezer and Union Starr. It is a peppy piece of energy which continues the impressive start. It is as catchy as a virus and takes the ear on a stroll of punchy rhythms and eager to please melodies which do not have to ask twice. There is also, to be not the only time on the album, a persuasive eighties breath to the song which adds to the engagingly textured musical poetry.
Following songs Sisters and Brothers with its heated Jan and Dean like harmonies and smoky trumpet persuasion and I Just Met a Girl with its jumpy swing recalling the classy tones of Town Called Malice, both without igniting the emotions as strongly as the earlier songs, leave the listener buoyant over their melodic and infectious rhythmic invitations. Though the album offers some instantaneously connecting songs it is generally more of a grower with the likes of When You’re Smiling and the harmonically glowing Mama along with the previous two songs, eventually earning their place in ones praise through the continual pleading of their tenderly crafted hearts across many plays.
The sixteen track release closes its first part with the heavier stomp of This Is My Confession II, a superior re-working of the first full song which then takes us into arguably the strongest part of album where songs like the mesmeric Forever Never Ends with its sultry melodic glaze shimmering across a seductive bassline, You Don’t Have To Be Unhappy, and I Want Everything reach stirring heights and hit the passions with the cleanest accuracy. The second of the trio has a great hook to start off its playtime of sixties pop and an addictive swagger complete with further impressive harmonies which feel Four Seasons inspired. It is a wonderful song equalled by the charging rock urgency of I Want Everything, a song which incites instinctive ardour for its outstanding rampancy.
Though it ebbs and flows in stature a little too much to be elevated to the highest echelons of acclaim, This is My Confession is a thoroughly enjoyable album. Certainly it takes its time to persuade but eventually does with style and deserves for all to take a stroll within its warm heart.
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