Dreadnaught – The American Standard

The American Standard

The latest release from New Hampshire-based Dreadnaught is an admirable and ambitious undertaking. A lengthy, fiercely energetic album, it is an impressive blending of styles – everything from rock-a-billy to punk, Americana to prog, jazz to funk. If any one band, especially one composed of only three members, could pull off such an undertaking, I suppose Dreadnaught would be it. Almost amazingly tight and adding in a host of instruments, this band clearly comes close to creating their own unique style, a kind of odd progabilly.
These three musicians are undeniably talented. With a host of projects under their belt and a guitarist trained at Berklee College of Music, there’s no doubt they’re gifted. Wailing electric guitars glide and soar over thick, deep basslines and sometimes jazzy, sometimes maniacal drumming. There are touches of horns, strings, and other instrumentation to change things up. They can switch from outright Zappa-esque rock to lighthearted country at the drop of a dime, sometimes changing so often that you have to check the song listing to see where you are.
The opener instrumental, “Ballbuster,” is an uprorious ride, fast-paced and enthusiastically tight, clearly the perfect demonstration of what’s to come. And what’s to come is the epic “Deus Ex Machina,” in five parts and over 20 minutes. Starting off soft and jazzy, this “suite” picks up as the vocals come in and guitars take on a rambunctious, funky romp. There are electronic elements, outright rocking moments, and piano-led pop songs.
After “Deus Ex Machina,” the band dishes out a bunch of catchy, shorter tunes, like the energetic, rocking “Popeye,” the more jamming, laid-back flow of “Bünnaschidt,” and the glorified funk-rock of “Welding,” filled with wailing guitars and high-speed percussion. Again they go for the “suite” approach, with “The Pumphaüs Suite” a shorter but interesting concept piece. It flows with a more restrained pace, putting more emphasis on vocals, adding in a more pop approach and then taking off in a more glamorous, up-tempo, prog-rock feel. And “Clownhead” ends the album on an up note, with fast-paced guitars, a nice rhythm, and a jammy feel.
Dreadnaught’s jamming style of primarily instrumental-based rock is fresh and original, and even their lengthy compositions feature enough changes and enough energy that you seldom lose interest. If this band had the following the Dead or Phish had, I could them becoming a nationwide name. Yet they could easily find a following in the vast realm of indie rock as well. At times a bit far-reaching, this epic-length album is still a very admirable project that succeeds more often than it doesn’t and inspires just as often.