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Oh Jonas

Yet another interstitial piece from Rivers Cuomo’s unfinished space rock opera Songs From The Black Hole, this scrappy, 26-second demo was officially released on 2008’s Alone II solo home recording compendium. Written and recorded in 1995, before Cuomo’s first term at Harvard (and the shift from operatic concept album about interstellar travel to opera-inspired concept album Pinkerton), “Oh Jonas” is meant to be a moment of introspection for the storyline’s Maria character, whose love for Jonas (Cuomo’s analogue, the tale’s tragic hero) goes unrequited even as Jonas indulges in platonic sex with her — hence the interlude’s alternate title, “Maria’s Theme.” As such, Cuomo’s vocal performance on this song is pitch-shifted to the point of barely sub-Chipmunks nasality, meant to be ultimately performed by the Dambuilders’ Joan Wasser (as the project went incomplete, this of course never happened).

It’s a pretty, modest little soundscape that is here characterized by the awkward, makeshift Cuomo-as-female production and a hasty job on the instruments, but it provides the template for a really beautiful little songlet — further evidence that a finished Black Hole album could have genuinely competed with the brilliant Pinkerton it ultimately became. As it is, though, “Oh Jonas” is a fun little curiosity for the die-hards and no one else.