If for some reason you’re not yet familiar with the brilliant multimedia assault that was heretofore known as the MarchFourth Marching Band, picture a multiplied Tower of Power—9 horns! 5 percussionists! 2 guitars!—dressing up like some alternate-universe high school outfit and performing with a less pretentious, burlesque Cirque du Soleil. It’s a perfect assault on the senses, one that’s been garnering them fans all over this great country.
What’s different about their new album, aside from the fact that they’ve shortened their moniker, is how well a marathon 10-day recording session with Galactic producer Ben Ellman has drawn out the rock-funk band that was always in them. “The Quarter,” for example, resembles nothing so much as the original ’70s theme from The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 mixed in with 50 Cent’s deathless “In the Club.” It’s action-jazz hip-hop, in other words. And while the local guests are very impressive—that’s Stanton Moore drumming on “Push It Back” and Trombone Shorty taking a solo on “Inventing the Wheel”—the real irony is that this once largely instrumental band is now starting to come up with some verbal hooks as well. It’s rare when bands develop their songcraft down here as well as their groove; a little change of venue can work wonders on even the most established bands. And speaking of which, the main achievement of this album is to reestablish them: It’s no coincidence that they titled this one eponymously, as if it were a debut. MarchFourth was once thought of as a live experience only. These songs are about to change all that.