‘Saloon’ opens with a bar scene in which a man can be heard complaining about the resident musicians: “Piano players keep playing the same tune every single night, over and over. I’m getting sick of it!” It’s a theme that’s carried over on the song ‘Cover Girl’, which has a central lyrical message that we should “stop being the print of someone else’s painting.” Clearly The Ongoing Concept had some disdain for the growing stagnancy of music and with this album they attempted to do something about it. And they didn’t hold back.
This record has equal parts melody, emotion, heaviness and untreated insanity, making it a whirlwind ride from start to finish. I consider this band to be the cousin Every Time I Die that was dropped on its head as a child and as a result become over stimulated and over excited, but at the same time intriguing and wonderfully exciting to be around. With so many things going on, ‘Saloon’ should be an absolute mess, but The Ongoing Concept are such impeccable musicians and song writers that they’re able to package their chaos into a perfectly cohesive, sustainable record.
If you listened to the majority of the vocal tracks in isolation, you’d could be forgiven for thinking both vocalists had gone mad, because without context they sound certifiably insane. The screamed vocals are maniacal and bonkers and even the clean vocals, despite being sung by a hugely talented and proficient singer, are often projected as though in character, twisted into weird phrases and patterns. Usually these techniques would be off-putting, but The Ongoing Concept somehow make it into an artform, balancing all of this craziness with equally warped instrumentals that balance everything out to provide stable, cohesive songs.
The guitars are brutal; most riffs making you want to incite a bar brawl in this ‘Saloon’ and despite the drummer being only 15 at the time of recording the album, you don’t find any solace there either, as feet rip through the double bass pedal and arms pummel the cymbals and skins at any opportunity.
It’s not all carnage though. Just to mix things up even more, The Ongoing Concept throw in ‘Sidelines’ – a piano-led ballad that ends with a stadium rock outro. It should be completely out of place, but somehow it nestles in among the other songs perfectly and demonstrates the power of the band’s ability to transmit their obvious passion through a heartfelt song that’s every bit as impressive as its chaotic counterparts.
With such a tongue-in-cheek concept and often crazy vocal delivery, it would be so easy for this band to fall into the territory being a gimmick. Even more so when you consider that follow-up album ‘Handmade’ was created using instruments made entirely by the band, from scratch. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Ongoing Concept have a fantastic DIY philosophy that guides everything they do and that integrity shines in every song they write. The combination of superb musicianship, complete artistic freedom and the ability to make their music as fun as it is impressive, makes ‘Saloon’ not only a brilliant album, but an import one; one that reminds us to take risks. “Stop being the print. Start being the painting.”
Enjoy Mike’s cover of ‘Like Autumn’ below and tune in next week for more!