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Mocaine Continues Making Concept Albums, But At What Cost?

7.5

album Reviews Mar 10, 03:08pm

‘The Story Of Jonah Stone’ is the second part of a trilogy. Do you know about that, though?

Amrit Mohan is Mocaine, and he is very into multimedia. The last time we covered his longform work, it was the first part of an ambitious trilogy of concept albums, ‘The Birth Of Billy Munro’. This was a blues-rock album that was tightly bundled with a novel and a short film, telling the story of Billy Munro, a violent-by-circumstances anti-hero who kills a lot and has a heavy, guitar-centric soundtrack. Back in a different era, there was a TV show called True Detective that told a story set in a similar place and played out in a similar vein. Well, the next chapter in this trilogy is called ‘The Story Of Jonah Stone’, and it’s True Detective season two. In more ways than one.

There’s six tracks to this album, it takes a step forward in time by going into 90s grunge, and it’s altogether a bit heavier and on the nose than its predecessor. It’s still good, though, and Amrit’s songwriting skills are still sharp. So go listen to it and enjoy some throwback rock in a time where Lil Yachty is our best approximation of any decade before the 2010s.

All right? Now that the ad is over, we can get into the meat of this thing.

True Detective season two had a similar presentation to the first; an anthology (that’s where different seasons of a show have different stories), a different main character, a different motive, but the same results (murder and violence; that’s why anthology shows get to keep the same name. They deal with the same ideas in different ways). Well, in Mocaine-land, the character is Jonah Stone, the motive is wrongful conviction, and the results are violent-adjacent. The soundtrack to this story, which is what the album actually is, is a bit more riff-heavy and flannel-clad. But this does share obvious creative DNA with the album that came before it, so should you listen to the previous one first and then get to this? Let’s cover both sides.

 

 

Taken in a vacuum, ‘The Story Of Jonah Stone’ is a pretty fantastic concept album. It’s produced very nicely, almost every riff on every song slaps, and it tells a pretty simple tale of a released convict adapting to a world that’s passed him by. The music plays the primary role in this; ‘Wicked’ is a super catchy opener with one riff that basically sells everything else. ‘Youth’ is a look back canonically and correctly takes a more leisurely approach to its sound; this is a moody arena rock tune at its core, complete with hold-your-lighter-up moments and the compulsory six-minute runtime that should accompany such songs. Big shout out to the multiple switch-ups the song takes and the excellent rhythm section that makes it possible (there are multiple shuffles and fills on this track with both drums and bass that are worth the replay value alone).

‘Arizona’ is a quiet little introspective bit of classic-rock revival that actually sounded better in the 90s than its 70s home. ‘Fuck You, Goodbye’ is a Pearl Jam song hiding behind a more classic structure and sound, mostly because of Amrit’s gravelly delivery, but the grunge of it all is clear to hear. The thing closes with ‘Edna’s Song’, which is both the smartest and the nicest song on the whole album; change of pace, perspective and feeling. This is easily the most emotionally tangible track here, and thus a wonderful way to cap things off.

However, what if you take ‘The Story Of Jonah Stone’ out of a vacuum? Amrit mentions the idea of weighing his previous character against this one; how they are similar in spite of the difference in their circumstances and how they are different in spite of the similarity in their superficial behaviour. Here is perhaps the only important question that comes out of this; does this album need context? To take an already tired metaphor too far, this is why True Detective didn’t do enough justice in its second season; it had already done most of its storytelling in its first. In a sense, one can feel that ‘The Story Of Jonah Stone’ shares a bit too much with its predecessor, which makes listening to this album a slightly diluted experience in context.

It’s an excellent release on its own, but its insistence on being tied to what came before ties it down a bit. Think Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. That album did win a Pulitzer, which says enough. So does Mocaine. Listen to ‘Billy Munro’ as well, because we all know what came before DAMN.

 

Listen here.

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