So, you're telling me there's a European folk-punk band that features an electric guitar, bass, drums, a dread-locked mandolin player, and a moshing fiddler? Well, considering that I've had Chinese food imported from Canada, that doesn't sound too crazy.
Wait, they're from Canada too? Now that is crazy!
My girlfriend has had a longtime love for The Dreadnoughts, so it wasn't long after knowing her that I too became hooked by their spell. It's difficult not to be taken in by this motley musical crew, who possess an energy that exudes not only in their live performances, but also in their studio material. Polka's Not Dead, the quintet's third album, pours over the listener, cascading them in a shower of rowdy drinking songs, beautifully moving instrumentals, and of course, polka. Throw in an a capella sea shanty for good measure, a recurring theme in their albums, and you've got a good time for any man, woman, or child (though parents that prefer a docile child might want to keep their ears away for fear that they might develop a little spunk).
For the uninitiated, the term polka may lead you to thoughts of large men wearing lederhosen playing accordions on a green hilltop somewhere in the European wilds, far removed from modern society. However, one listen to The Dreadnoughts' song “Polka Never Dies” will quickly change that image to something quite unexpected. With good results, I assure you! One can hardly expect to go wrong when left with the likes of vocalist and guitarist Uncle Touchy, bassist Squid Vicious, mandolin extraordinaire the Dread Pirate Druzil, the sensational fiddler-accordionist Seamus O'Flanahan, and the energetic drumming of the Swedish Bastard. While these names may sound outlandish, legends are better made of unusual titles and go well alongside a chilled mug of cider. And if there is a fuel for this brash bunch, this is their fuel of choice. The opening track of the album is, in fact, entitled “Cider Road”, and sets a splendid theme.
When I think of punk music, I often imagine a slew of poorly played power chords serving as a background for some adolescent lyrics. I was never a big punk fan, as you might have noticed, but this group might just have changed my mind. The gintlemen here, while certainly possessing youthful spirits, are no amateurs at their instruments. One need simply play the introduction to the track “Paulina” to find each in top form. The Swede's rolling drums and Squid's fluid bass, quickly followed by the superb plucking of Druzil's mandolin, with the accompaniment of Seamus' fiddle-work and Uncle Touchy's gritty guitar demonstrate the exceptional quality of this wild ensemble. But whether it be their infatuation with“Paulina”, the hauntingly beautiful “Clavdia's Waltz”, or “Poutine”, an homage to an addictive Quebec-based dish (look it up), we find not a single sour song or note. Their diversity of styles and interests, stopping not at Celtic themes alone but reaching throughout Europe, allows for songs that mesh well without ever becoming tired and overdone.
I haven't had the pleasure of seeing this band in concert and each listen of Polka's Not Dead or any of their previous albums reminds me how unfortunate that is. In 2011, they announced that they'd be taking an indefinite hiatus. While several shows have been played since that announcement, this means that it's unknown as to when, or if, they'll write and release more music. Their reasoning, which you can read here, makes total sense to me. Despite that, however, I'm still saddened by it. Since then, Uncle Touchy has joined a band called Consuelo's Revenge, but that is an entirely different animal with no intention of being a suitable replacement. If Polka's Not Dead is the final full-length for The Dreadnoughts, it is an extremely great note to go out on, but also unfortunate that such obvious talent shall no longer be shared with those who are eager to listen.
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Buy "Polka's Not Dead" at: iTunes | Amazon | Stomp Records (Hard Copy)