Hello, Helou Album Review: Desmond Jones
Written by Webster Austin
Photography By Michael Jacko
Last week I caught up with the guys from Desmond Jones on July 26. As they sat outside their van in a circle awaiting to play a Michigan venue, they huddled around the phone to discuss the release of their new album entitled Hello, Helou. Co-founder John Nowak explained to me that the title is inspired by the recurrence of their good buddy Antoine Helou’s attending a series of Desmond Jones shows around the country. Upon his entering the venue, the band would always call out the same: Hello, Helou! Helou is also presented as the focus on the cover art of the album in full-fledged, real afro glory. Behind him, the album’s backdrop consists of a kind of Beatles-Revolver array of black and white pictures of the five-piece band.
Upon unsheathing the gold-framed LP, one is immediately struck with the pop hit “Sylvia.” Written by guitarist Isaac Berkowitz, the song is filled with space imagery because the song centers around the protagonist’s searching for Sylvia who has fallen through a wormhole. I find myself sympathetically singing along with the rhyming lines: “falling through the curtains of space-time and all that stuff, / well I can’t imagine what you’re going through it must be tough.” It has a catchy Springsteen-type vibe with xylophone and bells highlighting the chorus. George Falk solidifies the track as a hit with his aching sax solo.
Falk also lends his songwriting ability with the second track on the LP called “Instructional Dance Song,” which produces a drastically different feeling for the listener. It is a song you would listen to while either lying on your back staring at the ceiling, or dancing in slow motion as a piece of “seaweed going up and down,” perhaps in a neon-lit bar. Although unexpected, it is allegedly based on the band’s invented dance called “the funky Columbus.”
Thinking that these guys were part-time mimes due to my knowledge of their last album (which displayed them in mime garb) and the third song on this album, “Mime Factory,” I was enlightened and pleased to learn that they actually just embrace the search engine that pulls up the Desmond Jones School of Mimes (no plug intended) next to their website URL. Nevertheless, “Mime Factory” elicits an uncomfortable and yet addictive feeling that corresponds with the line “Oh Bruce, I’m freaking out.” Apparently, they are still experimenting with makeup in a live setting attempting to pioneer a new genre called “glam-jam.”
The first single off the record, “Still Creatures,” is a turning point in the album where Desmond Jones’ ability to jam really takes off. There is an accompanying music video for this tune created by 1000eye Productions, but do not watch while you are hungry, for the infamous “chicken fingies” are not guaranteed to satisfy. Bassist John Loria pinned the next jam “Hott Hamm,” which will only relate to your hunger with the lead vocal pleading: “You gotta give me Hott Hamm.”
“Split Again” is the other single. Written by guitarist Chris Bota, it is a more country sounding tune. They expect to write exclusively country/Americana material for their next project. The song serves to introduce this side of the band that can handle and synthesize different genres. The sweet harmonies remind me of early Avett Brothers’ work. “Split Again” is definitely a highlight on the album, which excites me for more country/Americana work to come!
The album closes with another huge jam: “Pat and the Big Carrot.” Initially, a sincere gift from another touring band, the big carrot, accompanied the band throughout a long, late-night at a festival. The song features everything from violin and cello to rocking electric guitar. The closing track really shows Desmond Jones’ strong jazz influence and even further ability to handle and mold any genre into their own sound.
Hello, Helou is out now on all listening platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud. You can also order a vinyl copy from their website at www.desmondjonesband.com/.