Talk about hooks. Mo Kenney’s third album, The Details, grabs us with the tragic tale of woe and heartbreak and the impending doom of a cat. “I know you’ll try/ to take the bigger side/ but a cat’s not a cake.” Inside the first 35 seconds of the album we’re taken through this whirlwind of emotion, across what is essentially a sweet song, subjected to atrocities, and left in tears by our own tragic appreciation of dark humour. Just like that, we are hooked for whatever Mo Kenney wants us to hear for the next half hour.
The Details feels like a journey. Not a linear one, but the sort of troubled journey one experiences internally. In short sequence we rush through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and deep sexy grooves, though not in any particular order, often reversing and doubling back. Strangely, for a concept album, it’s Kenney’s most personal album to date.
It’s a concept Kenney is very familiar with. She was diagnosed with severe depression at the age of 15. She dropped out of school at the age of 18 and began drinking as a coping mechanism. Writing the album coincides with Kenney’s return to therapy, and a return to better state of mind. She gave up drinking and experienced a new sense of clarity. While the album starts in a dark place, there’s an optimism to it and a certain self-awareness that’s likely the source of all this tongue-in-cheek dark humour.
After the opening track—and the lamentable fate of a split-custody cat—Kenney immediately launches us into the crowd-rousing track, ‘On The Roof’. It embodies the bipolar nature of the album, with its manic energy and self-destructive subject matter as Kenney implores, “Call me down from the roof, again.”
The album’s title track is just 30 seconds, but carries with that manic energy through what feels like an argument conducted as an internal monologue: “You can’t have the story if you won’t hear the gory details.” Then it immediately flips to the dreamy ‘June 3rd’ that’s full of self-degradation and bargaining. There’s the abrupt and almost volatile ending to ‘Maybe I Am’, the simplistic and juvenile sense of displacement of ‘Counting’, the beautiful and mournful juxtaposition of ‘Out The Window’ that makes us wonder if Kenney is being literal and if maybe a police report should be filed. All of it reads like a laundry list of someone who isn’t coping and instead is living entirely inside their own head.
It all culminates with the (anti)anthemic double-whammy of ‘Unglued’ and ‘I Can’t Wait,’ which seem to celebrate the double-edged sword of being a little off your rocker. ‘Unglued’ is an upbeat song about acknowledging a problem and its causes, while ‘I Can’t Wait’ is a more sombre appreciation of being mentally untethered, the ability to be out of one’s head, but also lamenting the necessity for doing so.
We hit a switch and we’re back to the bigger than life ‘Video Game Music’. Ironically named, it’s easily the sexiest track on the album, and regrettably under a minute and a half. We’re going to need a longer version. Hit repeat and try not to resent it.
From there the album winds to a graceful conclusion as we attempt to return to reality. There’s not much fun in accepting there’s work to be done, especially if it means picking yourself up.
The Details is beautiful, bittersweet, concise and packed with catchy reminders in the midst of mental collapse that we’ve all been there before. At least some of us have been there, and for everyone else who aren’t already on speaking terms with the voices in their heads, it’s a great introduction.