What the Toll Tells
Author: Alfonso Goiriz
t seemed quite hard to believe that Two Gallants could fulfill the expectation created by the quality of their first LP The Throes, but even the angels on the cover of this second album, What the Toll Tells, appear to be amazed that they have done so. And it is understandable. First, the new label Saddle Creek's production improves the sound of its predecessor, and the San Francisco-formed duo doesn't spare us a moment to miss it, opening with the rocky "Las Cruces Jail", probably the most powerful song of their short discography so far. After the second cut, the slow and beautiful "Steady Rollin´", this pair of friends manage to persuade us that they are capable of stunning again with the similar poetic, sad stories that thrilled us on the previous album. To that end, they don't mind offering 9-minute pieces which rummage inside the most hidden and bitter emotions of human beings, building irregular structures where the rhythm and musical strength vary as a function of the story they tell, on the contrary to what is usual. It is worth pointing out, however, that in some moments the similarity of chords might cause a sense of reiteration and even a slight saturation since the music pulse could occasionally overwhelm the small quantity of instruments (guitar/harmonica and drums). Nevertheless, this just happens if we listen to it as background music without paying attention to what they need to convey and, on the other hand, it indicates that what they do is neither folk nor rock, but a high quality folk/rock. So as we go through the album, we run into masterpieces like Threnody, a harsh ballad about love, loss and blame, with a crescent intensity that ends up tearing us apart, Waves of Grain, a political complaint made poem, and above all, Age of Assassins, a brilliant example of this band's music, where in 8 minutes vitalizing tempo highs and lows are combined with breathtaking metaphorical writing about the burden of life. This, together with Adam Stephens' dramatic voice and melancholic harmonica, results in an ideal soundtrack for the personal, decadent stories anyone has. Because it looks like these beatnik-like guys have found the secret that only the greats keep: to take the form as the substance, helping to evoke what it is inside of us instead of telling us how we are.