Two Gallants CD review [Saddle Creek]

Music Reviews
Two Gallants CD review [Saddle Creek]
Feb 21, 2006, 21:23

TWO GALLANTS: What the Toll Tells CD

The deeper I get into What the Toll Tells, the less I like it. Which is disappointing because Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel promise a lot as songwriters and musicians. My biggest complaint is the record opens strongly but loses the steam, focus, and craft that define the first few songs off the record. “Los Cruces Jail,” a high-energy cow-punk foot-stomper, charges out of the gate with American gothic inspired tales of murder and destitute living on the road. Just as strong is track two, the gritty ballad “Steady Rollin'”—another morbid old west fantasy delivered in a gravely Faces-era Rod Stewart voice. But by mid-album the songs and the gothic old-west theme start to peter out. I wonder if “Thredony” deserves a full nine minutes. And what happened to the cool raspy quality of the vocals as the record moves into “Age of Assasins”? Is Stephen's aware of how close he comes to singing with an Oberst-affected warbled lisp?

And whether or not the reworking of Moses Platt's “Long Summer Day” is, as Pitchfork decries, “deeply insensitive and offensive,” it is still the most interesting risk on the record. I certainly don't get the impression it was ever Two Gallants' intention to demean any minority—and just because the guys are white doesn't mean they should be faulted for exploring America's history of racism. But what they can be faulted for is their poor choice of using the unnecessary and novelty flourish as the song's coda. It only serves to depreciate the song's value by not showing the confidence/maturity to end it without making it into some kind of hokey slop-fest. 

The last track “Waves of Grain” is great, but again, I don't know if it's worth its nine minutes and thirty-four seconds: its beautifully plaintive chorus never leads to the song developing further. The power set by the album's openers doesn't hold steady throughout this entire record, and overall, I think this album would have been much more effective as a 5 song EP. [Saddle Creek]

-Paul Matthew

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