Hey Jester’s new self-titled album is somehow both positively-poppy and sinisterly twisted in one of the perhaps most disconcerting releases this year. Does it work? Do you know what, I think it does. There is definitely moments across this LP where I’m left with this sense of ‘je ne sais quoi’ but the moments that stand out and scream ‘Hey. Jester. Are. Here’ are something to be proud of and impressed by.
As soon as album opener ‘Cleanse’ kicked into gear I thought I knew exactly where this album was going to head. “Sounds like Jack White” I lazily thought to myself, putting my cuppa back on the table and relaxing into my sofa; “this’ll write itself”. Nope, think again Matt, this ain’t over just yet. As much as I feel there are indeed a couple of ‘filler’ tracks on this record that perhaps hide in the background, it’s the majority of tracks on this album that DO shine through that have to be taken notice of. I’m not going to a begrudge a band whose debut album isn’t a wall-to-wall sonic masterpiece, no, no, no.
If Hey Jester can capitalise on what they’re doing right with this release, album number 2 won’t only be leaps and bounds ahead of where they already are now, people will be starting to take real notice as well.
Let’s take my favourite off the record, ‘Extraterrestrial Love’ (Track 5), as one of the places HJ really experiment and excel. The avenues my brain is trying to run down to find comparisons to other music I’ve heard recently are all over the place, from theatrical alt-metal inspired vocals to riffs that somehow could float their way onto an old Arcane Roots album or a 2019 Snarky Puppy release. It’s a real odyssey into psychedelia, meandering between gut punching riffage, excellent production and moments of delicacy. Pushing nearly 6 minutes, you’re lost in the Hey Jester experience for what feels like 60 seconds and a quarter of an hour simultaneously. Undivided attention to something that you can’t really detach yourself from. Superb.
The intersplicing of genres, where fuzzy garage rock collides with razor sharp jazz, where glamourous intricacies meet moments of deftness, that’s where I feel Hey Jester are at their best. Take album closer and recent single ‘Sickly Sweet’: in a touch of four-and-a-half minutes the listener is well and truly treated to a twisting and turning journey through stadium anthemic alt-rock with an almost Dream Theatre-like appreciation for the theatrical, in both their songwriting and the way in which the record as a whole has been produced.
A band who aren’t afraid to experiment in every facet of producing a record is one I always stand up and take notice of, and in all honesty, I can’t see why the future wouldn’t look bright for Hey Jester. If blood, sweat, and tears go into what comes next, the raw talent they already have with be served even better…hopefully in the form of a piping hot, tasty second album.