You’ve got to love anybody this hyphenated. Johnny Sketch and his Dirty Notes were pioneers in the local funk-rock bad-boy jam-band department, but they’ve continuously refined their sound like old jazz heads to the point where they’re now a first-class big-band rock-and-soul outfit with the potential, musically and otherwise, to go just about anywhere. Their confidence on this, their tellingly self-titled fourth studio album, is absolutely through the roof: These are the Notes at the peak of their powers, the kind of band so improvisational and yet so hivemind that the horn section leads the rhythm section around by the nose.
2013’s experimental 2,000 Days seemed like it was pointing the way to a more cerebral group, but turns out they’re partying harder than ever, at least in the groove: Lyrically, they’ve fully matured, both in function and form. “Goliath” gets his point about partying across with one hook (“Just a single stone can make you bleed”); in fact, the basic lyrical theme of the album is about egos, not necessarily parties, getting out of control. Witness also the more traditionally Sketchy “Fine Time,” with a rap way more intricate than you might imagine and a mention of Air Force One that may or may not bring current political shitstorms into the mix. They’re still stretching out stylistically, but it’s mostly upbeat—“Vieux Caribe,” as its title suggests, manages to weld a second-line rhythm to a frenetic samba, while “Last Train” may be the funkiest southern rock homage ever created. There’s even a full-on prog-rock instrumental called “The Dragon” replete with Bernard Herrmann cellos. If the band has toned down some of its recreational excess, its musical excess has only gotten more pronounced. Overdosing on the NOLA party rock record of the year is a pretty satisfying way to blow your mind.