Onward Chariots - This Is My Confession (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
ONWARD Chariots is the brainchild of Ben Morss, a multi-instrumentalist and self professed music geek whose journey to This Is My Confession is peppered with eclecticism. It’s probably why the ensuing record seldom sits still.
In a life filled with music, Morss has toured the world, played with the California acid-jazz group 11:11 at festivals such as NXNW and SXSW, conducted orchestras, played gospel in African-American churches, arranged and played on albums for artists like Cake, and immersed himself in the works of Peter, Bjorn & John, Belle & Sebastian, Yo La Tengo and The Beatles.
His new album, This Is My Confession, is described as “essentially a boy-meets-girl concept album” that finds the band’s sound augmented by strings, oboe, clarinet, mandolin, trumpet and all sorts of electronics.
The songs range from the garage rock of its title track to the bittersweet falsetto harmonies of How Could I? and the quasi-psychedelia of Forever Never Ends.
There’s traces of Surfjan Stevens in the orchestral Mama, as well as nods to everyone from Pink Floyd at their trippiest, ’70s prog rock and, at times, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Given its myriad influences, however, and the fact that it’s very much a concept album, it’s also an acquired taste as an overall listen.
Its highlights include This Is My Confession 1, which seems to delight in its mix of garage rock and classic band referencing (this one has elements of a lot of classic rock acts and a great guitar solo), Mel Gibson, which is rife with sun-kissed harmonies and witty Gibson referencing lyrics, You Don’t Have To Be Unhappy, which offers a pop-tinged musical pick-me-up, and the overt romanticism of the organ-led I Want To Be With You.
I Want Everything has a classic Cars meets hot rockin’ Tom Petty meets ’80s Cure vibe that’s toe-tappingly infectious, while How Could I? is built around some lovely mandolin licks and a smart falsetto vocal that adds to the sweetness inherent in the lyrics.
But if those moments impress, then there are songs that test the patience.
Mama, with its “la la la la” opening, feels like a Glee a capella moment gone on a bad acid trip, I Just Met A Girl is impossibly chipper and irritating (likewise Sisters and Brothers), and Forever Never Ends not really psychedelic enough to make the right kind of impression (albeit with some interesting oboe and clarient arrangements).
Put together, This Is My Confession keeps you interested. But it struggles to hang together as a completely satisfying, coherent whole. And you may well have a love-hate relationship with it.
Download picks: Mel Gibson, I Want Everything, I Want To Be With You, How Could I?, You Don’t Have To Be Unhappy