In theory, Antenna Inn should not be good. The local band is a nine-piece indie fusion project that is as heavily influenced by Steely Dan as it is by Tortoise. However, on its debut album Do Work, Antenna Inn does more than merely avoid sounding bloated or pompous. The band takes the best from its jazz and art rock heroes to create a fresh, fiery sound reflecting the melting pot of New Orleans.
A band with so many members and influences runs a high risk of sounding uneven. However, the group never loses cohesion, even when it allows a groove to drift for several minutes. “Ernest Borgnine” begins with a simple two-chord piano vamp that slowly boils to a rollicking chorus with all nine members not only playing together, but with urgency. The verse/chorus arrangement is then thrown out the window as the band moves from chilling vibraphone melodies to a big band swing outro that devolves to only the horn section playing like a brass band holding onto a melody for dear life as it falls down a flight of stairs. And that’s just the first song.
Do Work, clocking in at 36 minutes with only six songs, is not a long engagement. Antenna Inn makes the best of their limited time by crafting each song to be a musical journey through its influences. “Come On People” starts with a bluesy, Hendrix-inspired guitar line that breaks into a spacey Afro-Cuban groove before spending the rest of its nine minutes jumping from an anthemic indie rock chorus to a dirty funk bridge to a cascading, hypnotic vibraphone outro. While that may sound excessive, the band is talented enough to sell the disparate genres all residing in one song. By making the groove a top priority, Antenna Inn manages to avoid the pretentious pitfalls of similarly ambitious bands and proves itself to be one of the few local rock acts to wear the sounds of New Orleans on its sleeve with pride.