Back in 2006, I was pretty jazzed on OnGuard's potential. Here was a solo project that featured those higher-pitched, hoarse, shitty vocals that endeared me to early Jawbreaker, Brendan Kelly-fronted bands and A Radio with Guts, but wasn't a folk/country act, like Chuck Ragan or Tim Barry. Unfortunately, OnGuard was never fully realized, the songs put to tape never saw a physical or digital release, and their MySpace page was deleted, so I couldn't even stream the three songs featured. Fortunately, in the fall of 2008, the kind folks at Red Sound Records released those three songs, plus an additional three that had never been featured on their MySpace page, as This Has Its Price and That Price Has Been Paid. And free, to boot!
For being a solo project, there is a surprising amount of instrumentation. Most tracks feature any combination of the standard acoustic guitars, electric guitars (with distortion and without), bass guitar and drums, but Christmas bells, a flute, a piano, a xylophone and pursed-lip whistling are also peppered throughout the release. Despite this, most of the songs maintain a warm, stripped-down feel to them, excepting "Benders" and "Mr. Misery," which sound as they were full-band demos (and in the case of "Mr. Misery," it is essentially a demo to LaGrecia's "Can't Go Back to Daddy's"). "The Reds" even has what sounds like the hum of a loose ceiling fan in the background; it makes me feel like the song is being played live in the room with me.
"Lupe's Fault" is the catchiest and, arguably, the strongest song on the release. It features the abovementioned Christmas bells and flute, and it's pretty shocking to hear those bear cub vocals construct such catchy melodies, such as when frontman Jason Shevchuk sings:
Oh, sun shines like murder in my veins when I picture her wearing that dress / Oh, I hear every little note she sings to me / Oh, I got another thing coming"It really does suck that OnGuard never got past the demo stage, because This Has Its Price and That Price Has Been Paid really had a lot of promise. At least we can take consolation in that the demo has finally seen the light of day.