Published Jan 30, 2015Those new to Two Gallants may understandably be quick to compare the two-piece band to the Black Keys; they may also be interested to know that the San Francisco duo have been kicking it since 2001. Sonically, the two groups share many similarities, but on this, Two Gallants' fifth album, Tyson Vogel and Adam Stephens take their sound in a new direction with the help of producer Karl Derfler (Tom Waits, Roky Erickson). We Are Undone is about as diverse an album as one could record relying solely on the strength of two instruments, while still maintaining the grittiness that has drawn their fan base for the past 14 years.
Two Gallants are clever manipulators of volume and arrangement, creating storylines in the form of crescendos, climaxes and build-ups, often juxtaposing soft breakdowns with gnarly choruses. We Are Undone builds on that ability with the metal-adjacent track "Murder The Season - The Age of Nocturne" and the Muse-like build of introductory and title track "We Are Undone." But there are few head-banging adventures on this offering, which leaves more room for poppier songs like "Incidental" and "Fools Like Us," both very sing-able pieces. The album is also thematically diverse, with songs that consider the ills of consumerism, the inevitability of environmental disaster and the search for unattainable authenticity.
Highlight moments abound: the Tom Waits percussive intro to "Heart Breakdown"; the interesting Gary Clark, Jr.-like chord progression and duelling solos combining on "Some Trouble"; and Stephens' wild piano styling and vocal performance on "Invitation to a Funeral." Mixed with the grunginess and flare are the band's immutable folk sensibilities, evinced courtesy of an understated banjo on "My Man Go" and more impressively on "Katy Kruelly."
With We Are Undone, Two Gallants have created an album that is enviable in its quality and consistency. (ATO)