No one could ever accuse San Francisco indie-rockers Two Gallants
of stagnation - neither within the framework of their albums nor
within individual songs. Their latest What The Toll Tells is
a study in musical mood swings - alternating between rollicking
punk-infused, countrified rock and grandiose Pink Floyd-esque
ambient folk. Their lyrics are dense and cerebral, their production
minimalist and lo-fi. They are capable of both adept political
commentary and detours into clever lyrical absurdity - all tied
together by the common theme of death suggested by the title.
The humorous "Las Cruces Jail" starts things off with
the tale of an unapologetic outlaw-murder doing time in New Mexico.
"Las Cruces Jail" finds Two Gallants alternating back
and forth between three chord power punk and twangy Western-imbued
cowboy rock in quick succession. The "killer indie rock"
continues both literally and figuratively with the slower drum-and-guitar
rock of "Steady Rollin'," which tells the story of a
wife killer on the run from the law. The nine-minute epic "Some
Slender Rest" boasts a wistful feel Dylan-meets-Pink
Floyd. Full of introspection, "Some Slender Rest" lags
a bit in places and might have worked better as a less lengthy
The poignant "Long Summer Day" begins the political
portion of What The Toll Tells. A punk-meets-blues explosion,
"Long Summer Day" tells the story of a young African-American
family man so sick of racism that he seeks revenge on the bigots
who denied him his civic and financial freedoms. The outcast anthem
"Prodigal Son" is a sublime three-minute folk-punk odyssey,
while the religious and social commentary of "Threnody"
comes in the form of a prog rock-meets-folk epic. "Threnody,"
like "Some Slender Rest," becomes tedious in places,
particularly the bridge which finds guitarist Adam Stephens
and drummer Tyson Vogel wailing monotonously.
"16th Street Dozens" bears the most marked musically
contrasts within any song on What The Toll Tells - alternating
between a cacophony of speed punk drums and guitar and an ambient
progressive rock-inspired melody before adding trumpet solos at
the end. Strangely enough, the results are more intriguing than
annoying. "Age of Assasins" also features musical mood
swings, this time between rousing cowpunk and ambient progressive
rock. The final track, "Waves of Grain," is perhaps
the most political of the set - lambasting the current powers
that be with lines like "Who needs a friend when God's on
your side?" "Waves of Grain" is also a marked musical
contrast, featuring Dylan-inspired harmonica solos over an ambient,
Two Gallants have created a rugged lo-fi soundscape rich with
lyrical and musical experimentation. All in all, What The Toll
Tells is an engaging, if uneven, listen.
-Tracy M. Rogers
1. Las Cruces Jail
2. Steady Rollin'
3. Some Slender Rest
4. Long Summer Day
5. The Prodigal Son
7. 16th St. Dozens
8. Age Of Assassins
9. Waves Of Grain
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