Review: The Ongoing Concept’s Saloon


Idaho fresh faces The Ongoing Concept got chops. Got vision. Purpose. The studied sincerity peering out from those promo photos, which appear to have been taken in either the stacks of a legal library or genealogical repository, is certainly a convincing suggestion that their music comes from a collectively unique and personal place. A single spin through their debut full-length for Solid State makes it clear these boys know what they’ve got and how they’re gonna use it to get what they want.

What they’ve got is unshakeable instrumental acumen and a colorful musical identity. What they want is to make a forty minutes statement of easily recognizable, defiantly positive melodi-core. The album’s title, Saloon, seems curious only if you haven’t the songs; once you’re gauged-earlobe-deep in the tunes, it turns out to be the perfect name. The Ongoing Concept (perhaps not as apt a moniker as the one they gave their album) skillfully alloy some Western swing and hardcore intensity, shot through with wide sections of catchy melody and anthemic choruses. The dusty mine-town barroom conceit isn’t fleeting or kitschy either – ragtime piano, seedy banjo plucking and barbershop crooning have all been smoothly integrated without ever feeling forced or secondary to the screamo (yeah, I said it) baseline the band lives in. If anything, the strident aggression feels like it could be stripped from many of the songs without diminishing their, uh, core intent.

Where Saloon struggles is in its apparent lyrical simplicity (especially against the backdrop of their multihued music) and in turning compositional ideas into compelling listens. One hopes that the Dillinger Escape Plan would recognized some of its genetic markers in the Ongoing Concept, but the latter band is neither as sly or brain-berating as the former. Not that they’re trying to be. The Ongoing Concept are just as happy to bust out some swaggering hard rock (“Little Situation”) and a bit of touching power balladry (“Sidelines”) as they are to go on jagged metalcore tears (“Like Autumn”, “Class of Twenty-Ten”, the title track).

Maybe this trio of brothers and their bassist pal will be a group to watch as they develop their strengths toward the “timeless” quality they strive for. For now, they’ve constructed an adequate 10-song entry into 2013’s growing register of underground music for kids who are no longer content to be kids. Here’s to hoping the right kids find this and keep the band going long enough to find what they seek.

The Ongoing Concept’s Saloon comes out August 20 on Solid State. Listen to the track “Cover Girl” here and pre-order the album here.

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