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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.


  1. Melack wrote:

    The melody is beautiful. In under 30 seconds Rivers shows how much potential he really had as a musical composer.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  2. Art Vandelay wrote:

    The melody is spectacular, and pretty clearly reflects Cuomo’s former interest in Opera at the time.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  3. Hup_Y wrote:

    Wasn’t this one of the songs Rivers provided the sheet music for on myspace? I missed all of that due to being without the internet for a long time. Anyone remember what that was like at the time?

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 6:36 am | Permalink
  4. runnersdialzero wrote:

    Gorgeous melody – sad that these little 30 second scraps that Rivers probably wrote in twice that time are more melodic and often times more interesting than a lot of the stuff he’s put out in the past 10 years.

    And yeah, Varz posted the sheet music for this one, too. Flippant (the guy who did “Walt Disney” on the first tribute album) gave it a shot, I’m not sure if I still have it anywhere.

    It was really cool to be getting this sheet music, but ultimately frustrating as we knew these versions couldn’t compete with proper versions or Rivers’ demos. Rivers tried to guide us through the sound of these songs, but ultimately what fans got from the sheet music usually turned out to be quite different from the actual Rivers/Weezer arrangements.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  5. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    This is a wonderful melody, but I cant get past eh pitch shifted vocals. It would sound great in a fully realised suite of songs, but i doubt it could rival Pinkerton.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink
  6. s.o.s. wrote:

    If Runners can’t find Flippant’s Oh Jonas, I can upload later if anyone is interested. It’s pretty close to the original except for the tempo change at the “nobody else loves you like I do” part. As for the song, I looove the melody and really think that (as soy noted) SFTBH could have been on par with Pinkerton as a finished product.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    Of course I enjoy this little mini-song and the potential it reflects (and as you all have noted, the lovely melody), but I’m really surprised that some of you adore it as much as you do. As a fan of Guided By Voices, I gotta say I’ve heard many a lo-fi song of comparable length that absolutely slay any of the interludes Cuomo came up with for this record.

    And yes, I know it might be a little unfair to compare since much of GBV’s microcompositions are meant to stand alone and stuff like “Oh Jonas” are mere appendages for more robust, longer songs in the sequence, but one of the songblog’s main functions serves to isolate and evaluate each song on its own separate merits.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  8. runnersdialzero wrote:

    Eh – it’s not mindblowingly amazing or anything, but it’s still a pretty nice little track. Tha’s allz.

    Friday, November 27, 2009 at 6:40 am | Permalink
  9. HowCoolIsThat wrote:

    One of my favorite Cuomo melodies. It gets stuck in my head ALL THE TIME and I find myself walking around singing it constantly. I would really like to take a shot at recording it again, because I think with a better quality mic I could create something beautiful.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  10. Soyrev wrote:

    Go for it!

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 4:21 am | Permalink
  11. ThomYorke wrote:

    Make a new post, Soy, this place is a snoozefest!

    Friday, January 8, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

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