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splendid > reviews > 1/22/2002
Dreadnaught
Dreadnaught
The American Standard
Red Fez


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Ballbuster"

Buy me now
Just when you thought every combination of musical styles had been attempted -- and topped with a cute catch phrase -- there's a new one. Meet the self-described "progabilly" band, Dreadnaught. That's -- you've got it -- progressive rock mixed with hillbilly Americana roots music...though truth be told, there's quite a bit more "prog" here than "billy". There are country-tinged hoedown breakdowns on a few tracks ("Jester's Theme", for one) but most of the disc follows in Zappa's big, weird footsteps. The first song is called "Ballbuster", after all, and the rest of the disc (except for the last song -- "Clownhead") is divided into two suites. One is called "Deus Ex Machina", while the other is even more confusingly named "The Pumphaus Suite". Yes, this is the kind of music that makes you think. It is challenging to its listeners, but ultimately rewarding.

Dreadnaught's music keeps you engaged, and never drifts into the background. There are odd rhythms, diverse instrumentation, and sudden shifts between jazz and complex, math-heavy rock -- and sometimes the band throws in something totally unexpected, as in the Nine Inch Nails-tinged "Deneb". The musicians are skilled, and show a range of chops, with bass player Robert Lord especially shining, handling melodic phrases and leads not usually handled by the bass.

My only complaint is that there aren't enough vocals. There's an upbeat, They Might Be Giants-style voice part on the second track, but vocals aren't heard again until the fifth song, "Derby Days". Track seven, "Bunnaschidt" has some interesting lyrics and a singable "la-la-la" chorus, and also features a classical guitar solo, some fine drumming, and a dose of strange, unpredictable rock instrumentation. It's an odd mix, but it works -- and is a good summation of the complex amalgamation that is The American Standard.

Before closing, I have to mention that the song after "Bunnaschidt" is a minute-long dischordant rock piece called "James Thresher Industries: Building Solid Careers In Middle Management Since 1976", which features a ripping kazoo part. Wow.



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