The Stoned Mother might be more like it. Based on the shirtless, powdered-wig cover of Texas singer-songwriter Caleb Landry Jones’ debut album, you might think you were in for some tightly wired, Upper Crust-inspired fop-rock. Nope. Instead, Jones — also a respected actor whose credits include everything from Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights to Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — presents a nostalgic program of glammy psychedelic rock straight from the slush pile of Syd Barrett and Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles. And to his credit, he seems to be a pretty decent singer and a reasonably skilled musician. The only fly in his pancake face makeup: According to Jones, most of the album is set in some sort of dreamscape netherworld — which is unfortunately reflected in his ill-advised decision to jettison traditional musical structure in favour of stream-of-consciousness arrangements, rhyme-schemeless lyrics and unpredictably meandering melodies. Sure, his epic excursions and fantastical flights of fancy do seem to deliver a reasonable musical facsimile of the swirly, shape-shifting scenarios that screen nightly on the inside of your eyelids and brain pan. But unless you’re in the mood — or perhaps the altered state — to drift along aimlessly with him for an hour, The Mother Stone crumbles pretty fast, reduced to a vanity project of style over substance. And the ambitious Jones ends up looking like just another self-indulgent actor who wants to be a musician instead of sticking to what he knows and does best.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “I think most of it takes place in dreams,” Caleb Landry Jones says of his debut solo album, The Mother Stone. “I’m talking more about dreams than I am about what’s happened in the physical realm. Or I’m talking about both, and you’re not sure what’s what.” This is the kind of conversation you end up having about a record like this one, a sprawling psychedelic suite built from abrupt and disorienting detours and schizoid shifts of voice, its manic energy forever pulling the tablecloth out from under classic pop orchestration. One minute you’re squarely in the realm of biographical fact and a moment later you’re having a discussion about lucid dreaming and how Jones once punched up a dream set on a soccer field by willing himself to experience it from the POV of the ball. But maybe that’s just another story about grabbing the wheel of your own hallucination; maybe this pertains to the music after all. Some biographical facts: Caleb Landry Jones was born in Garland, Texas in 1989 and comes from a long line of fiddle players. Three, maybe four generations back, on his mother’s side. His grandfather wrote jingles for commercials, his mother was a singer-songwriter who taught piano lessons in the house, and his father was a contractor who did a lot of work for the Dallas music-equipment retailer Brook Mays and knew a guy if you needed a bass or a banjo. But Jones is not sure if you can hear any of this in his music and he does not play the fiddle. Jones has been writing and recording music since age 16, around the same time he started acting professionally. Played in a band called Robert Jones for a minute, lost his guitar player to higher education, moved into his own place, and broke up with somebody, at which point the songs really started coming hard and fast. “I started playing guitar and playing more keys,” he says, “and then started writing record after record after record after record, because I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was a good way of healing. And it felt like as soon as I started doing it, it felt like it needed to happen all the time.”