Review Summary: From the sweat of their brow....
“We poured our hearts and souls into this record”
We’ve all heard musicians pop out this trope ad nauseam, and all too frequently what “this record” ends up being is a simple rehash of previous material. A product that if released at any other point in the artist’s career, no one could tell the difference. With Handmade
, however, The Ongoing Concept take this cliché and embody it like few bands ever have. As the cover art alludes, the band chopped down trees to create the instruments they used to record the album. Armed with fruits of their labor, the boys eschewed making a sequel to Saloon
in favor of making a record commensurate with the intimacy in their efforts and the wackiness of their personalities.
is a bit of a strange beast, on one hand it’s bursting with their signature feverish energy and relentless catchiness, but surrounding the Scholz Bros’ throat-destroying roars and the lickity-riffity onslaught of the guitars is an aura of liberation. Throughout its runtime Handmade
showcases a myriad of old-school licks and riffs to ignite the songs, a stylistic change from Saloon
that seems to have really allowed the band to shine bright and write freely without the motif of the wild west over their heads. While there is a decline in the sheer musical ferocity found in prior songs like “Class of Twenty-Ten” or “Like Autumn”, don’t make the mistake of thinking this means Handmade
is soft. The duo of “Trophy” and “Unwanted” brings the bouncy savagery while the opener “Amends” is guaranteed to make your neck sore. Handmade
also throws some curveballs at the listener in the form of “Soul”, a southern fried number tackling a dilemma the great Charlie Daniels would be proud of, and “Melody” a jaunty, folky tune showing the band’s ability to twist any form of music to make it their own.
It’s apparent the band had a hell of a time making this album, taking inspiration from bluegrass, R&B, and plain ol’ rock n’ roll and injecting their signature energetic groovy stuffing until near burst. This energy gives Handmade
a perpetual positive vibe ensuring a welcoming listen each and every time. The lack of the out and out stellar tracks Saloon
had makes Handmade
a more consistent release in comparison and an album that should be judged as a whole rather than the sum of its parts. The lack of ferocity in comparison with Saloon
may irk some fans as well as the liberties the band took with genre-hopping but instead of looking at these changes as a proverbial middle finger to the “true fan”, realize the creativity encapsulated in this band is a beautiful thing. Handmade
has all the makings of a passion project, from physically building their own instruments to the stylistic changes, the band made the album they wanted to make, not necessarily the one the fans would be clamming for.
If there’s one notion The Ongoing Concept seem to adhere to obsessively it would be originality. Whatever idea they have and however they seek to implement it can’t be boring or it seems to be thrown off the table. Handmade
doesn’t disappoint in this regard, delivering an impeccably tight and rocking good time just in time for the (northern hemisphere’s) summer. The changes are evident, can certainly be hit or miss, and reminds one of another former Solid State band that traveled down the same path, He Is Legend. Hopefully The Ongoing Concept escape the backlash that comes with changing one’s sound but regardless. Handmade
is an impressive piece of work.