Caveat: these are simply my thoughts and impressions of the Dreadnaught disc Hard Chargin’; mileage may very when compared to your own.
The adventure begins with the cover, a phantasmagoric mélange of images – a Polar bear, a mummy, a half-naked chained slavegirl, a speeding red General Lee-type car (all of which turn out to be characters in the songs) boldly arranged like an iconographic movie poster, with the title “Hard Chargin’” streaking across, some Tarantino / Rodriguez / Carnahan mash-up, a poster for a movie that was never made, or rather a movie that gets made anew in your mind every time you hear the soundtrack.
Have a Drink with Dreadnaught – the music begins with this jaunty, bouncey tune, a straight-forward upbeat rocker that is as close to anything “conventional” you are going to get on this disc. A psi-fi warbly keyboard theme interjects like an escaped flying saucer from a B-52’s album, and with lyric lines like “spread your seed on the new grid” and “there’s a polar bear!” we are in another dimension indeed! (Is that you Modine?) The lyrics to this tune, btw, refer to a story (penned by Geoff “Red Fez” Logsdon) about the band playing in some quasi-mystical bar where dead rock stars live and Duane Allman beats on Dennis DeYoung’s balls with a bat, and you can hear his Broadway-worthy vocals howling into the night. You should read it sometime. Have a Drink With Dreadnaught.
Gaudy Baubles – it gets a bit more exotic here with strange effects on the instruments, proof in the pudding of the “veritable shitload of analog effects pedals” mentioned in the credits. And good for them! Let’s hear more outboard effects than all this inboard added-later stuff! The impression of a movie soundtrack holds, a movie for your ears ala Zappa’s “Hot Rats”. Flute makes an appearance in the sonic mix to great effect.
That’s The Way That You Do it (My Way) – Suddenly Mr. Bungle roars in, a demonic distorted voice over a fast Ska–type beat, then a micro burst of Steely Dan-ish chords, like a window thrown open on The Royal Scam album, LA Fusion, then slammed shut by Bungle again, a riotous mob of hooligans chanting. This is where the adventure truly begins for me. And its only a 58 second song.
Takin’ a Ride with the Fat Man (Fatta Fatta Puck Puck) – the Bungle comparison continues for me here, and since I use Bungle as a touchstone / symbol of a certain type of radical genius (in your face energy / unpredictability / a will to craziness) it is one of the highest compliments I can give. I don’t know about this fat man or what his deal is, but riding with him sounds like a night on the road with Mr. Toad on acid. A happy driving-down-sunny-highway melody “takin a ride with the fat man / takin a ride / fatta fatta puck puck! (my old percussion instructor taught drum parts by singing them – “dakka dakka flubba flubba bang!” – and you have to sing along with them to see how well it works) gives way to pantonal Mothers of Invention-like vocal parts. Rhythmic patterns come and go before you can fully get a grip on them. The music changes constantly then exuberantly unravels into a drum solo, toms rolling down a stairwell. It’s over and then it isn’t. This song gets the furry kitchen sink thrown in, and reminds me of an old review of Yezda Urfa where the writer advises “don’t fight it just let it run bugshit thru your brain”. That is good advice for Dreadnaught and their music: just let it run bugshit thru your brain!
A note on comparisons: I hear (and you will to) many similarities in Dreadnaught's music to other things, snippets of Dixie Dregs chicken pickin', Zappa / Beardfish-type humor, Roy Buchanan, pick your favorite band that makes the notes jump thru hoops and do circus tricks. The band members draw from the vast palette of styles and sounds that are now available to us courtesy of the most musical century in our history. The way they put it all together is uniquely their own. Dreadnaught reminds me of many great bands yet they sound like none of them. They have their own style and sound.
Bo-Leg-Ba – One of my favorite tunes. Sounds more like “Ber-Leg-Ba” to me but no matter J Does it have anything to do with the magical-liminal figure Pappa Legba of Voudon mythology? It sounds Caribbean in places so maybe? Happy fun music, makes you wanna dance naked on the beach. And the drum sound is awesome, the toms ring round my head, I can feel there resonance as if I am sitting amongst them as they are played.
Express Delight – More movie for your ears exoticism. Begins with distorted undulating guitar and evolves in swells to space lounge Jazz. In fact this whole album is the most avant / noisey Dreadnaught recording yet. Sure, meaty slabs of odd-time prog rock riffage abound, but the music is just as likely to go off into left-field noise-scapes as anything. Moments of beauty emerge amidst constant change. The Rock-In-Opposition (RIO) label applies here as a handy guide. This track sounds like a mash up of classic Dreadnaught hoe down riffing with The Muffins horn collages. Stompin rock meets ambient jazz with great saxophone.
That’s The Way That You Do it (Your Way) – A return to this lyrical theme but this time as sung by a Hank Williams / Jimmie Rodgers yodeling cowboy in a honky tonk. “That’s the way that you do it / that’s the waaaayyyeeeeee!” I milk much hilarity out of imagining a drunk Hank groanin’ an slobberin' his solo into a mic-driven distortion pedal, as he would have to do on this song! That’s the waaaayyyyeeeeee!
Gets the Grease – More slice of avant garde sound sculpture, like something off Zappa’s Uncle Meat, but with sax and ethereal piano, to my ears an unintentional echo of American bands like However and The Muffins. Atmospheric. Is the "grease" a reference to Col. Bruce of Hampton Grease Band fame? I dont know but its worth a guess.
Slave Girls – My favorite tune on the album. Meaty slabs of odd-time monster riffage stalking thru the forest, knocking over trees. It Rocks! Then…completely different territory, a lilting violin plays a traditional American-sounding melody like something from Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Heartbreakingly beautiful, brings tears to my eyes.
Mummies of The Cobbosseecontee – Actual title that. More movie for your ears, sweeping, cinematic, ambient and noisey. Epic. Goes everywhere. Honestly I haven’t heard it enough to fully know what it is. It's an instrumental with bursts of percussion, beautiful piano work, a haunted crypt opening, blistering guitar and notes leaping thru hoops in unison. Goes quiet and minimal with just a halting drum groove before building back up. Over 10 minutes of changes and textures. Let the ending riff run bugshit thru your brain!
That’s The Way That You Do It (Our Way) – Ends on a return to this theme, but now sock-hoppy and poppy. The Grease car flies away into the sky as the credits roll. Did I "get the Grease" there? Rambunctious and melancholy, rock-n-roll fading away. WTF did we just hear / see? Have to play it again.