Reviews

Two Gallants

Author: Jason Thomas
09/26/2007 | Crawdaddy.com | www.crawdaddy.com | Album Review
From the very first time I gave Two Gallants' new, eponymous album a listen, I loved it from start to finish. It's the third LP from the San Francisco two-piece that consists of Adam Stevens on guitar and Tyson Vogel on drums. The two have never really been able to accurately capture their sound on a recording. Stevens admits: "Recording's something I still don't really have a lot of faith in, to be honest. It's this thing you do because you want people to hear your music who can't, and you want some sort of permanence to be left behind in case you die tomorrow." Vogel echoes this sentiment: "What drives me and what drives both of us to do what we do is not recording. I think recording is one of the most awkward spaces for us really." On this album, however, they found a producer willing to help them craft their sound in the studio, giving us an album that captures the organic sound and feel that their live performances are known for.

The 2G's recorded sound has presented difficulty for some, hiding unrefined yet complex accompaniments that they pair with powerful and emotionally loaded lyrics. Having spent some time with them on tour has perhaps helped me to understand the perspective of two young and talented musicians who dropped out of school to give professional musicianship a go while still in their teens. They spend more time on the road then any band I've known, having done two full U.S. tours this summer alone and multiple stints in Europe. Now they are on the road again in support of this album. Spending all that time on the road, reading everything from Nietzsche to Camus, they seem to take what they see of the world and use their own reflection to churn out lyrics that vividly express their translation of it all.

Songs such as "Miss Meri" echo American life observed while spending endless time on the road: "To all my so-called country men who bless this stolen ground / Is Jesus gonna pick you up when your hunger weighs you down?" and "Way out on the open plains / Men pave beneath the sun / The great suburban dawn / If you build it they will come." My second favorite track,"The Hand That Held Me Down", bemoans the burden shouldered by someone once abandoned, "And ever since your epitaph was splattered on my wall / No one comes to call they can't stand the stench / But I still sing your praises every time the curtain calls / The burden on me falls / Yes, I alone stand at your defense." The first single from the album, "Despite What You've Been Told", is an up-tempo tale of self-deprecation: "I should climb down off my rugged cross / And lay with you / But you know by now it's half past late / And I only came here for escape / You, you're just my next mistake / Like me to you / You know you could be anyone / God forgive your unborn sons / I hope they don't end up like me." After spending a month listening, however, "Ribbons Round my Tongue" has become my favorite song.

The Two Gallants are often misunderstood. Their bookishness and propensity for obscure traditional American music over whatever is currently hip alienates some, but therein lies the substance of their music and lyrics. Stevens admits: "The main source is ignorance. Writing from a totally uneducated, blind perspective. That's where the strongest things come from. The more I've tried to keep some sort of education going while being on tour, which is sort of impossible… reading, keeping up with what's going on in the world… I realize the more I learn, the less I seem to have a connection with my immediate thoughts. It's just about your ability to be totally conscious about what's being put upon you. It's like the greatest pieces of literature are books, things that remind you of yourself, because they touch that thing in your soul. And that's the kind of thing, when I first started writing songs, that was what I felt like I was most tapped into."

I can see how the folks over at Pitchfork may graze this one again, hearing it, but not getting it. They'll continue to worship at the alter of Chuck Klosterman while decreeing that the Two Gallants seem to be looking through a window that yields a landscape from a century prior, and is thus irrelevant. But they'll again be missing the point. While likely wishing for the musical equivalent of more contemporary literary sensations like Augusten Burroughs or Charles Bukowski, they'll fail to grasp it's Walt Whitman, not to mention one of the year's best albums.
Two Gallants

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