Two Gallants – Two Gallants
Saddle Creek Records
By Graham Isaac
The sticker on Two Gallants’ third full-length describes the record as the “best translation of the duo’s folk-punk-blues alchemy.” If this were true, the combination of Adam Fontaine’s songwriting skills and their striking mix of American styles could have made for hands down the best record of ’07. Sadly, the band forgot the “punk” bit.
As is, 2GS rolls along with a Dylan-esque take on folk-blues. While their previous full-lengths fucked with the formula enough to raise eyebrows, much of this record could be slipped into a set of ‘60s style folk-rock without making many waves.
Which is a shame, really. Without stompers like “Los Crusces Jail” or “Fail Hard to Regain” (from 2005’s What the Toll Tells), the band lacks both the dynamism and sense of fun that made them such a cross-genre force to be reckoned with.
Plus, this is a break-up record. Gone are the murder ballads and character pieces that characterized their past full-lengths, and the political overtones are confined to a few moments of indignation.
It might be true that completely happy artists have a hard time creating, but more and more it seems that completely sad artists have a hard time distinguishing between the cream and the crap. Fontaine’s lyrics are generally strong, injecting well-worn sentiments with personal touches (the Dylan-esque comparison isn’t just for the harmonica), but on an album full of lost love and personal betrayal, “trembling of the rose” and “ribbons ‘round my tongue” drag the record down. Lines like “you know I died the day you set me free” could work if set to cathartic riffing, but against soggy string sections they drown in their own high-school sap and serve to set the rest of his lines in bad light.
Granted, the good still outweighs the bad here, as opener “The Deader” moves like a purposeful drunk, guitars switching between clean-picking lament and bluesy clang, while “Fly Low Carrion Crow” recaptures some of the acoustic dread of older cuts like “Crow Jane” and “Threnody.”
Lead single “Despite What You’ve Been Told” is a testament to Fontaine’s skills as an acidic lyricist and the band’s way with a melody. The track positively bristles with sour lust, briskly
dispatching accusations and apologies in the same breath, managing to be both complex and cathartic at once.
Earlier this year Two Gallants released Scenery of Farewell, a five-track acoustic release. This is perhaps the most appropriate entry point from which to listen to 2Gs; if they hadn’t come out the same year, or had been edited down into one release, this album could have opened up a new side of the band. But as a return to form it falls short of the mark.
Still, Two Gallants are one of the better bands making the rounds, and this is worthwhile music for old and new fans. It’s just not the first of their albums I’d recommend. – (7/10)
Long-time NadaMucho.com contributor Graham Isaac is currently reporting from Swansea, Wales. Two Gallants will spend the rest of 2007 touring Europe with Portland’s Blitzen Trapper.