JONCRO’s impressive debut ensures that the stories, legends, and legacies that inspired it will continue to resonate for future generations.
There is nothing more satisfying — and compelling — than hearing an artist articulate their own hero’s journey in song the way that Daniel G. Wilson has with JONCRO’s debut full-length, Richmond Station. Wilson and bandmates Kieran Christie (bass, vocals) and Matthew Mikuljan (drums) have been methodically and meticulously piecing the album’s narrative arc over a series of singles since March when they debuted opener “Passa Passa” on Bandcamp. The song takes its name from a Jamaican Patois term that “refers to gossip and the disagreements and confusion that can come from such duplicitous behaviour.” It is a hard-hitting, thunderous track that best encapsulates a sound and style JONCRO is calling Burru Punk: post-hardcore fused with Jamaican mysticism and mythology.
The loose concept behind Richmond Station explores “a journey from pain to salvation” that transverses generations and genres. Taking its name from the railway station that used to sit at the base of the hill on which Wilson’s father was raised, Richmond Station is rife with what feels like deeply personal references and experiences that achieve universal resonance through tight musicianship and smart songwriting. “Sakura” starts off feeling like a 90s-inspired sappy-sad pop-punk rocker before the band loses themselves in a mesmerizing jam halfway through. Abandoning traditional punk tropes, they let the song double in length, wordlessly weaving a musical tapestry that somehow still manages to move the story forward. The folk-infused “Villa de la Vega (Exile)” is a compelling recounting of persecution and displacement of the Indigenous Taino people at the hands of European invaders. “Cudjoe (Maroon War)” is inspired by Cudjoe, the descendent of African slaves and Jamaica’s Indigenous population who led a resistance against European conquest from the hills to which his ancestors fled when they overcame their Spanish captors. The song’s motorik-leaning beat and Wilson’s gnarly snarl (“Can you hear it / Through the trees / Guerilla war / On the Caribbean sea”) builds to yet another anthemic freak-out jam that will floor you.
And if “Cudjoe (Maroon War)” doesn’t move the needle for you, then Winnifred Wilson’s dub poetry performance on closer “Mama” should seal the deal: she’s Wilson’s mother, and her spoken word performance, accompanied by nothing more than the sound of waves breaking on the shore, brings home just how personal and profoundly moving Richmond Station is for both performers and listeners alike. Wilson calls the record “a love letter” to their ancestral hometown, a place that not only holds their own memories but the memories and experiences of generations of family members. Though they may not be the ones who started the journey, Wilson and JONCRO’s impressive debut ensures that the stories, legends, and legacies that inspired it will continue to resonate for future generations.