Review Summary: "I should set the steel trap of your thighs and dive right in"In the evening, a young man named Corley is walking with his friend Lenehan and telling him about a woman he has seduced. His attitude towards her is clearly scornful, and he is happy to relate that she pays his tram fare and has brought him cigars stolen from the house where she is a maid. Corley considers the arrangement superior to when he used to take women out and spend money on them. A rendezvous has been arranged with the woman. As Corley meets her, Lenehan appraises her at a distance, yielding an unflattering description of her physical attributes. Over a supper of peas, Lenehan thinks enviously of Corley and contemplates his own lack of achievement at the age of thirty-one. He dreams of settling down with a woman who has money. After eating, Lenehan wanders around a bit more before meeting up with Corley at a previously arranged time. Corley presents him with a gold coin that he has just swindled from the woman. Unbeknownst to the reader until now, the pair have been planning to do this all along.
The above is a summary (a la wikipedia), of a short story from James Joyce’s book, Dubliners
, namely the one which Two Gallants actually take their name from. The reference is, arguably, an important insight into the themes and structure of which the San Franciscan duo implemented on their self-titled; the second of their two 2007 releases. Joyce rather famously made use of a literary technique that has come to be known as the ‘mythic method’, or taking a classical well known story and using that to form a framework for discussing contemporary issues. Now I wouldn’t dare take a guess on which classical story Joyce based his tale ‘Two Gallants’ on, however, when listening to the bands most recent release you can’t help but notice that they seem to have taken a very similar approach. Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogels songwriting is highly visual; as they delve once more into a past - full of murderers, gunslingers, street urchins, and a struggling working class of manual labourers - to comment on the present.
So what comments do Two Gallants make on modern society" Nothing too positive as you can imagine. Twisted tales of relationships gone wrong, murder and racism complimented by a bluesy guitar/harmonica combination, supported by Vogel’s energetic and characteristic melodic drumming. As with all past albums, the band display a penchant for loud, bluesy, folk inspired indie. However, they tone down on the more outwardly aggressive and punk side of their sound that became apparent on sophomore release What The Toll Tells
and, as such, reduce some of the experimentation that they had began to incorporate into their music. Instead, having teamed up with Alex Newport (Mars Volta, At the Drive-In), to produce the album, and by combining his personality and experience as both a musician and recording engineer with a new batch of songs the band had written, Two Gallants have here created their most cohesive work to date. It isn’t as ‘raw’ as previous releases, taking on a slightly more mainstream sound; although still noticeably lo-fi, and there is a lack of the sprawling six minute plus tracks that make appearances on their previous releases.
With a crisper sound than previously available, Stephens guitar playing intermingles seamlessly with Vogels melodic and creative drumming, and this with the honing of their interweaving dual vocals; that explore blazing choruses, and even broken passages of speech, make for a refreshing listen. Some of the songs on this nine track album represent the pinnacle of Two Gallants creative and downright clever songwriting abilities. For example, lead single ‘Despite What You’ve Been Told’ opens with a catchy use of acoustic finger picking with a varying yet steady drum melody that continues throughout the song as it progresses into a classic Two Gallants drama. Stephens voice is at its best on this record as well, coming across more polished than his previously reedy voice, whilst managing to retain all of his quirkiness. Lyrics such as “You know by now it’s half past late/ And I only came here for escape/ You, you’re just my next mistake
”, will be stuck in your head for days, thanks to his eccentric delivery embedding itself into your subconscious.
isn’t so much a departure from their old sound then, as it is more an evolution towards a more mainstream approach. The album still retains the rustic qualities that made previous albums so enthralling, and all the old quirks are there. The main complaint is that despite the records cohesiveness it does lack the number of stand out songs produced on earlier albums. However, the band have made a natural progression and still manage to compel with their vivid tales of murder, the old west and personal relationships. In fact, it’s very interesting indeed to see Two Gallants paint a picture of modern society through a lens of the past. It is a musical approach that is pretty unique in today’s culture of misogynistic lyrics. Once again, Two Gallants impress with their dark and intriguing take on folk, and this album is well worth picking up.