Let’s talk shtick, shall we? Because it’s ever expanding, from Wolfmother‘s meta-metal to Be Your Own Pet‘s juvenilia-baiting. In a world where we have access to more music than ever, bands need a hook to get attention. The task of the discerning listener is to figure out who’s just acting a part to sell records and who’s truly a freak.
For what it’s worth, the members of Morning 40 Federation are the latter. I saw them enough times around New Orleans in my college daze to realize their white-boy boozer personas aren’t acts. These are genuine miscreants, deviants, and drunks that you wouldn’t want your female family members to associate with.
Morning 40 Federation lets its freak flag fly fantastically on Ticonderoga. The title of the album comes from an Indian word meaning “the land between two bodies of water.” But the Federation isn’t going to commemorate its beloved, now-obliterated 9th Ward neighborhood with any morose schlock. These guys are going to give it a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, a party like no other.
That brass-band sound is most prominent in “Toodle,” one of the album’s many sex odes. “Skin” is like a Mardi Gras Indian incantation. And “God Help Me,” the only track on which Morning 40 get even vaguely political (by saying they don’t love Cheney or Bush) isn’t too far from Modest Mouse‘s “The Devil’s Workday,” which that band recorded with Big Easy natives the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
On other songs, the band members recall the somewhat awkward white-boy funk of early Chili Peppers. “Intuition,” with lead singer Josh Cohen crooning the title in falsetto, has funky guitar interplay that Flea and Frusciante would admire. “A+P” features the kind of half-talk, half-rap Anthony Kiedis specializes in, although Cohen fakes da fonk a bit too much with the lyric, “Come set my black ass free.” (Dude’s white, I probably don’t have to note.)
Elsewhere, the 40s venture to try things only their warped minds could cook up. “Washing Machine” sounds like a ’50s love ballad that’s been completely fucked up — it’s Cohen’s salute to a launderer he has a crush on that he thinks looks like Jenna Jameson. And closer “Conversation Whore” is simply drunken blabbering about “buck PBR” (every good greasy white hipster’s favorite beer) over the sounds of piano, standup bass, pissing in the street, and puking.
With bands such as Morning 40 Federation around, New Orleans’s irreverent musical tradition will outlive Katrina just fine.