[29 January 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Having an ace producer in the control room can go a long way towards making your sound seem much bigger and cavernous than just the sound of a few people playing together. In the case of the Chicago and Minneapolis trio On An On, which formed out of the detritus of a now-defunct band called Scattered Trees, they brought in Dave Newfeld to produce, mix and master their debut album, Give In, and the results are striking. Newfeld, of course, produced Broken Social Scene’s landmark record You Forgot It in People, and if you miss the sound of BSS, which is on indefinite hiatus, you’ll find much to like here. With a lead vocalist that sounds a little like Bono of U2, and an indie-rock sound that harkens to Canadian groups such as BSS and Arcade Fire, Give In is a delightful, big-sounding record that belies the fact that there are just three people in the band.
Granted, as you can tell by the above paragraph, there’s not much here that you would call “original”, and, indeed, in an interesting side note, there’s even a New Zealand band with a MySpace presence called Onanon that has a song called “Ghostie” (On An On has a track titled “Ghosts” on this record). So, yeah, that’s a little close in similarity for comfort, to be sure, and an eerie coincidence, if you can call it that. Still, despite a slightly lagging mid-section that goes, well, a bit on and on, and the odd uninteresting lyric on the occasional cut (“All the horses are runnin’ / ‘Cause you left the gate open / This is your job my friend / So go and gather them in”), Give In has an appealing, dream-like feel to it, and while it is not going to reinvent the state of indie rock as we know it, as a sound-a-like to other noteworthy bands, it works. Give In is a record you can just get lost in, with swirling guitars, electric drumming, and a rather trippy vibe. Where the band goes from here is anyone’s guess, but having someone like Newfeld as a captain of your ship seems to be a very wise move. He’s almost like a fourth member of the group, and he uses the studio as an instrument a bit. His attendance here elevates what could have been pedestrian indie-rock into something definitely worth hearing and being endeared by.