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Two Gallants
What The Toll Tells
Saddle Creek Records

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 piece.

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, post-punk melody.

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

Track List:
1. Las Cruces Jail
2. Steady Rollin'
3. Some Slender Rest
4. Long Summer Day
5. The Prodigal Son
6. Threnody
7. 16th St. Dozens
8. Age Of Assassins
9. Waves Of Grain

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