Review Summary: A fantastic debut and foundation for a band to build upon, I throw you only one warning; delve into this record and you will be hooked.
Music fans have always been keen to jump on the hype train when a new and ‘raw’ band receives a good critical response from the hip and trendy magazines, online blogs etc. When a debut album from a young, never before heard of group receives a little hype there is always a tendency too get caught up in it all, and hail the band as the saviours of modern music and as such your new favourite band. Few deserve this often exaggerated ‘love’, with many of these musical ‘revolutionists’ succumbing eventually to the title of distinctly average
. What makes this worse is that those bands who often deserve the hype rarely receive any attention at all and slip under the radar, hailed by only a few critics and ignored by the majority. One such case of this occurring would be Two Gallants.
Indie folk duo Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel have been playing music together since they were twelve years old, although only began touring under the Two Gallants moniker in 2002 at the age of twenty. Skip forward two years to May 2004 and they had released their debut album; The Throes
on Alive Records, a surprisingly mature effort from the young musicians. Instrumentally and vocally the two men compliment each other perfectly (perhaps the result of 10 years playing together), resulting in music and song writing that is at all times powerful and evocative. It’s reasonable indeed to say that when listening to The Throes
you will be transported to a setting all the more rustic and ‘less modern’, thanks to the bluesy, almost country style Two Gallants have made their own. Consisting simply of guitar, drums and harmonica the music is simple but dynamic, the duo playing with an almost urgency so original that it makes the album an unforgettable and totally enjoyable listen.
Lyrically, the band are less abstract and more narrative, focusing on themes of the old west, murder, theft, racism and similar topics; the title track itself telling the story of a woman suffering the agony of an abusive husband, brought to life by Stephens effective but reedy voice. Abstaining from conventional song structure, Two Gallants go about modernising old styles and creak and strain forwards with emotion and power, Stephens voice puncturing your subconscious throughout with his eccentric delivery. An example of his narrative lyrical style would be:
Well now Crow Jane don’t make no sense to me
She left me hanging from the papa tree
No I never ever felt so free
Look at, mama, what you’re doin’ to me
Cuz it ain’t no difference which way I smile
I ain’t good lookin’ froma quarter mile
The last two lines also showcases Stephens quirky and humorous self-depreciation, which really increases the appeal of the record.
The album opens with the very bluesy, electric folk "You Losin' Out" but then they kick it up-tempo a bit with "Two Days Short Tomorrow"; which begins with some folk finger picking before the drums come in, then everything pauses as Stephens shrieks “My darling, my darling”
. “Nothing to you” is a catchy tune that you can almost bounce along to. A song later and "Crow Jane" conjures up a spooky, dismal desert ghost with its sparse playing, only to go full out and blow you away with the full out rock of "Fail Hard To Regain".
The youthful, almost punkish vigour of the musicianship on show, contrasts and yet balances with the albums troubling and disturbing themes. It’s an emotional struggle at times to ‘see out’ the whole album experience, yet ultimately fulfilling. The songs on the album are haunting but mesmerising as they tell their dark tales based on half-truths and take us on an almost nostalgia trip with the pure richness of the music. The fact that both men have known each other since they were five is obvious, as each move and each venture is anticipated by the other.
With The Throes
Two Gallants put themselves head and shoulders above the rest of American roots music. It makes for both an exciting and startling listen and I couldn’t recommend it more. Each and every story presented on this album is worth listening to again and again, whilst the listener never loses the rustic feel that the album bestows upon you. Vogels drumming is more melodic than rhythmic, which really adds extra depth and character to this wonderful album. So does all of this make The Throes
an out and out classic? In my opinion …simply yes. This is an album that for years to come will still have every bit as much staying power and relevance as it does now and could be played at any occasion, regardless of the mood of the listener/listeners because of just how textured and layered a record this is. Oh yes, I recommend this very much indeed.