Review Summary: Here we go... Again?
It’s always nice to look back on the good memories of the past. Whether that’s a voicemail you’ve kept from a family member, a photo of scenery you never want to forget, or even just a little token that you’ve had in your room over the years, it brings back fond memories that you want to continue to cherish. In a lot of ways, this can be said about a band and their music. In the introduction to The Ongoing Concept’s fourth full-length effort, “Again” reflects on past interludes and brief lyrical passages that defined their earlier records. In a lucid recollection of Saloon
’s opening scene and various, nearly indistinct, musical sections, Again
opens with a look at the past as the band returns with a new burning passion.
, The Ongoing Concept takes a step back and re-evaluates their discography. After just about eight years after the release of Handmade
with the full original lineup, it’s clear the band wanted to bring back what they used to do. Full of song titles that are repeats of previous album tracks with “Again” tagged on the end, Again
is a record of reminiscing on what established The Ongoing Concept in years past. With various lyrical callbacks like the refrain ”You’re never gonna be my lover”
of “Amends Again” and "Melody, melody, come back to me"
finding itself embedded in “Melody Again,” the album provides a comforting reminder of the past and the impact of the meanings of the tracks from earlier years. It’s a warming feeling, hearing the infectious choruses of songs that used to dig into your mind in a new light; it brings back sweet memories of hearing those songs for the first time. These moments are all the more enhanced by the intricacies of musical elements that spark a subtle reminder of styles from their earlier discography, providing a nice sense of nostalgia through the nods.
However, the album isn’t entirely just about nostalgia. While it is elating to hear the various lyrical callbacks and subtle musical nods, Again
is a step-forward into a modern era for The Ongoing Concept. Taking bits and pieces of their previous sound, the group continues to delve further into their melodic side, leaving behind much of the chaotic intensity of Saloon
and fast-paced energy of Handmade
. This doesn’t mean that they’ve completely lost their identity; “Saloon Again” brings back some of the western feel of their earlier years with an unrelenting aggression that creates a stark contrast to the rest of the album’s melodic focus, while “Prisoner Again” brings back the electronically-driven, ferocious riffs that amplify the atmosphere. Yet when they aren’t playing into their older style, Again
is primarily focused on expanding their melodious songwriting. “Melody Again” and “Failures & Fakes Again” display soaring choruses that showcase the improved vocal range that allows the melodies to pierce through the music, bringing a vibrant vocal intensity to the mix. The guitar rhythms and basslines of “Amends Again” and “Unwanted Again” highlight an infectiously catchy facet of The Ongoing Concept with slight influence from funk grooves that bring a bouncy flow. With this combination of subtle heavier moments mixed in with the album’s melodic sensibility, Again
does exactly what it sets out to do: bringing back what made the group’s music memorable while simultaneously progressing their sound in the way they want to.
doesn’t necessarily stack up to the highs of their earlier discography, it really doesn’t need to. It’s hard to recapture the western wackiness of Saloon
or the pulsating rhythms and riffs of Handmade
, but that’s for the best. Though it sounds fantastic to completely return to form and recapture the magic of the past, The Ongoing Concept’s newest album is exactly what they needed: a reminder of the past and a step toward the future. Instead of remaining in the past, Again
finds itself as a stepping stone, leading the band further in their progression while reminiscing on the power of their musical past.