Sound: Irreverence has never been delivered so brilliantly. Such is the case with Louisiana's Morning 40 Federation, a band that has managed the seemingly impossible: making an album where every song is original, infectious, and lyrically sharp. Although they've remained under the music industry's radar, the release of their latest CD Ticonderoga might raise enough eyebrows to finally give the attention that they deserve.
Morning 40 Federation could easily have become a ska act, given the simple fact that they have saxophonist/vocalist Joshua Cohen and trombonist Dick Hukill in the mix. But this band is not ska nor any other easily defined genre, and that is what makes each song a pleasure. You're never quite sure what Cohen, Hukill, bassist Steve Calandra, falsetto vocalist/guitarist Ryan Scully, guitarist Bailey Smith, and drummer Mike Andrepont will throw at you next.
One of the highlights of Ticonderoga is God Help Me, a song that almost feels like an old spiritual that has been given a shot of distortion. The basic format is indeed that of a spiritual with it's repeating verse/chorus and earthy rhythm, but this one is not quite as solemn. The song grows and grows in intensity until it reaches it's climax right around the time they declare, God help me to love Dick Cheney and George W, but God help me I don't love them! When a raging scream follows the last statement, it actually is enough to send unexpected shivers.
On the other end of the spectrum is the track Corkscrew, which features the falsetto talent of Ryan Scully. The man pulls off the falsetto so well that you almost think it's a woman singing at times. The song is tongue-in-cheek, but it still is written very effectively and will have you humming the tune the rest of the day. The contrast in the vocalist's styles -- from Scully's falsetto to Cohen's low, manly rap at times -- keeps the album consistently fresh and is an absolute asset to the band.
Plenty of listeners will have a hard time figuring out what to make of Morning 40 Federation, but that's what makes Ticonderoga such a worthwhile offering. You'll hear a bit of New Orleans jazz flavor, a tad of rap, a smidgen of British garage rock and pretty much anything else you can imagine. It was actually a fun experience just waiting to find out what kind of style would pop out of the next tune on the CD, and not too many bands have the talent to explore a wide variety of genres in one record. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics are what make this band a true diamond among the herds of bands out today. The first time you take a listen to Ticonderoga, you probably will think you're ears are deceiving you. Morning 40 Federation takes on subjects like cocaine and seducing incoherent women, and proceeds to create hilarious settings in each song.
In A+P, the band tells the sad tale of a gentleman who has started off to a bad day -- he just can't get that 40-ounce malt liquor that has been on his mind. I woke up in the penitentiary; First thing on my mind was a morning 40; All I could get was a ham and cheese. It's not likely that this band have the hardcore history that gangsta rappers are known for, but that's what makes A+P so amusing.
The band goes a little bit more taboo in the song Corkscrew. It starts off innocently enough, talking about grabbing a corkscrew and wine to have a good time. Then it works it's way to hashish and then on to cocaine. You've got the cocaine; I've got the straw; Let's do some cocaine; We can talk, talk, talk, talk. Again, a tongue-in-cheek song that takes you by surprise, particularly given that vocalist Scully is in full Tiny Tim mode. // 9
Overall Impression: Although the production of the CD is not as well mastered as a group who is on a major label, Morning 40 Federation has put out a record that survives on it's musical merits alone, which is a rarity. With a solid horn section, plenty of featured guitar solos, and vocalists who always manage to keep things interesting, the Louisiana natives deserve to get a lot of attention from Ticonderoga.
For fans of hardcore rock or metal, Morning 40 Federation will likely leave you confused and unsatisfied. But listeners who keep an open mind will likely find that Ticonderoga will be on their repeating playlist. It's just not every day when you hear a band full of competent musicians who aren't taking things too seriously. After all, they've got to better things to worry about: getting that golden 40-ounce. // 9