Drunk off their brasses

Morning 40 Federation has some advice to help you kick off your day: Meander on down to your corner store and pick up a few King Cobras.

Their sound is gritty, edgy and naughty by nature — like a truckload of proto-grunge (think early Replacements) crashing into a brass band from New Orleans. Ironically, that’s just the place the guys from Morning 40 call home.

Just turn right off Bourbon Street and head into the deepest, sleaziest part of the city. That’s where you’ll find the band — who just released their self-titled CD this month — hanging out.

A coalition of former drinking buddies, Morning 40 is still remembered in skid-row circles for its audacious debut, stumbling on stage back in the late ’90s toting instruments they hadn’t yet learned how to play.

That’s probably the reason Billboard magazine called them a “bad punk band.”

Fans, however, don’t quite agree.

And neither do more sophisticated critics. From The Oxford American: “The band does to alcohol what country music does to lost dogs.”

Meanwhile, Offbeat magazine dubbed them Best Emerging Artist of the Year, back in 2001. More current proof (no pun intended) of their worthiness: The band recently snagged the opening slot on Rebirth Brass Band’s current headlining tour.

Morning 40 is made up of six members who met each other in the Crescent City’s infamous Ninth Ward neighborhood. (A song on their current CD is titled and dedicated to their favorite haunt there.) Back in those days, the shows were even wilder — the band inspired the crowd to get loose, act uninhibited and go crazy. After everyone got their drunk on, the performance took on a carnival-like atmosphere akin to a late-’60s sideshow.

And when more people started to turn out to catch the boys at places like the Hi Ho Lounge and Checkpoint Charlie’s, Morning 40 started to give Mardi Gras a run for its money.

In chronically-hung-over, what-the-hell fashion, the band travels sin-paved paths other bands fear to tread.

Band themes include: Alcohol. And, well, alcohol. Strippers. Thirteen-year-old girlfriends. Horrendous BO. Oral love. Chili-cheese fries. And, oh right, alcohol.

And what does all this decadence sound like? The drums recall car parts thwacked with nine irons. There’s metallic guitar, careening from Stooges smutty to spiky, post-punk clean. Distorted vocals are skewered by horn blats that’ll make your eyes cross.

Even the softer stuff is loud at heart: Horns. Guitars chorused to sound like horns. Ragtime piano. Scrappy vocal harmonies.

Morning 40’s lyrics aren’t about to set anyone on the road to enlightenment — but they may show someone the way to a bench in Pritchard Park.

Josh Cohen, lead vocalist and sax player, was asked recently to comment on the life expectancy of his band.

Said the front man soberly: “I don’t think there’s any way to predict how long our livers will last.”

[Will Cumberland works for the Asheville-based JukeboxAlive.com]


Morning 40 Federation opens for the Rebirth Brass Band at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.; 236-2424) on Saturday, Aug. 28. Show time is $10; tickets are $12.

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