Release Date: Feb 3, 2015
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After turning up the volume and putting a harder emphasis on the rock side of their musical personality on 2012's The Bloom and the Blight, Two Gallants take one step forward and two steps back on their fifth album, 2015's We Are Undone. On the first half of the set, Adam Stephens (vocals and guitar) and Tyson Vogel (drums and vocals) aim for a sound not dissimilar to The Bloom and the Blight, with Stephens' guitar sounding big, fuzzy, and full of attitude, while his vocals are fearlessly passionate and just a bit cocky on numbers like "Fools Like Us" and "Some Trouble," and Vogel's drums roll like thunder and bring in the bottom end that Stephens' guitar lacks. But while "My Man Go" is fully electric, the song eases back on the muscle of the album's first half, and spare, acoustic tunes like "Katy Kruelly" and the piano-led "There's So Much I Don't Know" are a clear throwback to the folk-influenced approach of the duo's early work.
Those 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.
Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel first met when they were five years old, and Two Gallants officially began in 2002, when they were 21. Both singers and multi-instrumentalists, Stephens usually handles lead vocals and Vogel often sits behind the kit. With a name honoring a story in James Joyce’s Dubliners, the two released their debut LP, The Throes, in 2004.
Remember when it seemed like the world would never get to hear another Two Gallants album? Those were tough times. The five-year-gap between the duo's self-titled LP and The Bloom and the Blight was excruciating, enough to make the wait for their fifth album seem like a drop in the ocean in comparison. It's true that We are Undone has come together relatively quickly, especially since Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel spent a considerable amount of time touring its predecessor, but there isn't even the slightest hint of complacency about the ten tracks that make up the record.
It takes more than guts to dredge below rock bottom. Certainly some degree of bravery is involved, but also naked desperation and a disregard for personal safety, and maybe you don't wanna sink that far into the darkness anyway. Two Gallants' new album lives down there in the depths, their most defeated, defeatist statement. Its emotional timbre is best described as abysmal—and this from a band that has continually found virtue in failure and upheld self-loathing as a form of self-awareness.
With their new album We Are Undone, Two Gallants have found a method that complements the bombastic, torn-up country immediacy that earned the band initial attention, as well as the pair's knack for songwriting that has steadily grown over the last 10 years. Both sides of the band merge here, which can be credited to an evident musical maturity and the help of engineer Karl Derfler (Roky Erikson, Tom Waits) whose relatively transparent production allows these songs to shine. .
Two Gallants’ breakthrough, back in the early 00s, came at the hands of revered US label Saddle Creek – so perhaps it’s no surprise that as Adam Stephens’ cracked vocal works its way through the line “force yourself to fall in love / just to feel it break” on ‘Fools Like Us’, it’s that stable’s best-known alumnus that can’t help but come to mind. ‘We Are Undone’, the Californian duo’s fifth full-length shows off more than heartfelt wordplay and familiar vocal styles, thankfully – there’s the garage-rock leanings of the title track and follow-up, the grungy ‘Incidental’, and the not-quite-early Radiohead freak out ‘Under The Season / The Age Nocturne’ eventually goes even further in to the world of noise. There’s the dark, Cold War Kids / Black Keys whiskey-soaked blues that permeates ‘My Man Go’ and especially the piano-led ‘Invitation to the Funeral’.
Two Gallants’ Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel started making music together at the age of 12. They began performing around San Francisco as Two Gallants in 2002, when they were both 21. Earning a reputation for their heartfelt, gritty folk rock through years of tours on a shoestring, they eventually signed with Dave Matthew’s label ATO Records, the same imprint who are releasing their fifth studio LP.
Wayne and Garth. Batman and Robin. Thelma and Louise. Never deny the power of an unbeatable dynamic duo. As Two Gallants, Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel have managed to keep their partnership intact over 14 years and five studio albums, all while coloring their simple guitar-and-drums aesthetic with ….
What starts out sounding like Black Sabbath on LSD, gradually unfolds as something quite intriguing — far more so in fact than that erratic sound initially offered. Despite their razor sharp edges, Two Gallants can be surprisingly subtle, although admittedly it takes some patience to wade through the racket. The title track and the songs that follow present the greatest challenge, but midway through the set, the tone and timbre change.