The Dreadnoughts – Roll and Go

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews
Dreadnoughts - Roll and Go

The Dreadnoughts

Roll and Go - Stomp Records

Prolific Vancouver folk punks The Dreadnoughts have enjoyed quite the career in the sixteen years since their formation.  Their rise from obscurity, starting with seemingly nightly performances at local dives like Pub 340 (one of which I had the pleasure to attend), quickly transformed into signing with Stomp Records and the resulting cross Canada tours followed by distant Eastern European treks (it’s well worth watching their tour documentary).  And right when the band seemed to come to terms with their identity and gain momentum, they entered a hiatus – fans wept and the crew took time to explore civilian life ashore.

When the band returned from dormancy several years later, the feeling was that their collective time on land had only made them appreciate their identities as musicians even more.  This time to reflect created a new age for The Dreadnoughts, one that found the band releasing the music they were most passionate about.  The band released a painstakingly researched album about a soldier’s experience during World War I, followed by an album consisting exclusively of authentic and original Sea Shanties.  These clear passion projects exemplify how The Dreadnoughts’ of the present produce albums they feel warrant their time and creativity, rather than being a product to fill a semi-regular release schedule – a pattern that bleeds so many bands dry of their creativity.

The Dreadnoughts’ sixth full length, Roll and Go, feels like the band celebrating their roots – as if the band felt it was time to update their playlist of pre-hiatus anthems with a Canadian twist. It’s the closest thing to their 2007 debut, Legends Never Die, and 2009 follow up, Victory Square, that they’ve ever released – but this time with the benefit of experience.  It’s an eclectic batch that spans every major trend in the band’s history.  Fist raising cider anthem?  Check out “Cider Holiday.”  Fiddle-laced, historically-rooted prairie tragedy?  “Battleford, 1885” has you covered.  Goofy country drinking song about backwoods Canadians?  Let the “The Rodney Rocket” inspire some swagger.  Infectiously danceable accordion-based polka?  Then dawn your lederhosen and look no further than “Vicki’s Pola” (which even gives a nod to their third full length in the line “polka will never die”).  Whereas the past two albums stuck close to their inspiration and theme, Roll and Go is looser, making for a rip roaring fun time.

Long time fans (of which I lump myself in with) in particular stand to embrace Roll and Go as a somewhat overdue refresh.  I am particularly grateful for the band’s decision to include “The Storm” – a slow moving, accordion laced dockside power waltz that stylistically harkens back to one of my all time favourite tracks, “Victory Square.”  For a band most known for its raucous stage presence, The Dreadnoughts have the ability to become incredibly deep when it suits them.  “The Storm” describes a poetic account of resistance in a bygone era in which the elite amassed their wealth “on the backs of bowery sailors,” with “mothers and fathers still howling for their second-born.”  “We are the storm,” professes the band as they sow the seeds of class-based dissent and escape from their captors.  It’s a historical theme that remains relatable given the ever growing divide between a fading middle class and bloated billionaire elite.  

The title track marks another undeniable highlight.  Striking a near perfect balance between stadium filling anthem and quiet back alley busker, the pendulum swings between simple acoustic narration and thumping full band marching cry.  The combination of rich accordion melody bolstered by handclaps, fiddle strokes, and gang vocals make “Roll and Go” an undeniable exemplar of the folk and celtic punk genres.  Dare I say that The Dreadnoughts have never ended an album with such gusto.

Critical readers may have noticed that until this point I’ve abstained from referencing any other folk or celtic punk bands in this write up – what many would consider a faux pas in the world of music reviews.  Allow me to explain.  Many noteworthy pillars in the folk and celtic punk community have been active for a long, long time.  For instance, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and The Real McKenzies have in excess of seventy-five years between the three of them.  The commitment to their craft has been very targeted and intentional.  They are masters and pioneers of a very specific sound and style. And while The Dreadnoughts wouldn’t be around without any of those influences, they have always been more diverse and artistically ambitious – exploring and quickly mastering an array of influences on a whim.  

As Roll and Go exemplifies, the student has truly become the master.  Dare I say there isn’t another celtic or folk punk band out there that can generate new material with such excitement as The Dreadnoughts.  Six albums in and Roll and Go once again confirms that the band returned from their hiatus because it was impossible to silence the melody playing in their heads.

As a reviewer, I often find myself stumbling upon my new favourite album, listening to my digital review edition and leaving it at that.  Roll and Go is one of those rare instances where after falling in love with the album I instantly pre-ordered the vinyl release.  I order very few physical records these days (space is always an issue), but I can already tell that Roll and Go will stand the test of time.  Roll and Go is an absolute essential for any fan of folk punk and celtic punk.