Folk Rock as Glorious Cacophony
A few developments seem to characterize some of the music that has emerged post-9/11. Ever since we were introduced to Jack and Meg White’s compelling, two-person cacophony as the White Stripes, there have been some stellar duos that have emerged, including The Black Keys and the lesser known Benevento Russo Duo. Of course, musical duos are nothing new – particularly in the folk scene. But it’s something else when that duo can produce something as loud and rocking as a three or four-piece band. The other trend may very well be the use of reverb almost as its own instrument; a technique that helped put My Morning Jacket on the map. These two trends characterize the new release from the San Francisco duo Two Gallants.
Guitarist Adam Stevens and drummer Tyson Vogel have been playing together since they were twelve and have been making what has been billed folk rock music for four albums prior to their fifth and current record, We Are Undone. Merely from a sonic perspective, what they have produced is quite impressive. Loud guitar riffs carried on a carpet of heavy drums and almost rhythmic reverb coupled with some piano-based tunes and softer ballads towards the second half of the record are the vehicle for songs about heartbreak (lots and lots of heartbreak), death, and other fodder for navel-gazers.
While the first half of the record offers up loud foot stompers that allow Two Gallants to blow their instrumental wads and impress long-time and first-time listeners with their energy, it’s the second half that belies the folk rock moniker. “My Man Go” and “Katy Kruelly” are back-to-back heartbreak songs that give fair balance to the battle of the sexes. The gentle acoustic finger picking on “Katy Kruelly” reveals a sensitive, yet pissed off soul reeling from a dumping.
The album deserves multiple listens to absorb the subtleties of the lyrics and sometimes sharply contrasting music, and it’s certainly a good lesson for anyone interested in understanding what can be produced from a minimalist approach. Two voices, drums, guitar, and reverb: impressive stuff.