With their new, bold and powerful release, San Francisco’s Two Gallants have created an album which glares – not peers – into the abyss and draws on its contents to create songs of serious emotional weight.
We Are Undone is an excitingly diverse collection of songs that exceeds in upsetting expectations right from the title track onwards. Meeting the listener with amplifier-melting southern rock slide guitar, the opener explodes into the grungy noise of the guitar/drums duo. As occurs often on this album, the arrangement is punctuated by short, punchy instrumental breaks that get in, get the job done and get out.
The album is brutal and honest – indeed, over the course of their ten new songs, Two Gallants leave no emotion or honest instrumental wizardy off of the table. Nothing is held back, as the song cycle varies wildly, hopping genres from minimalist, tender piano ballads to dirty blues rock to blistering, metalesque fretwork. Although the content of the album deals frequently with love lost, reminiscence for a bygone era and similar (often depressing) themes, the songs almost never suffer from a redundancy of writing. Every tune smokes, even on the back-to-back ballads of “My Man Go” and the quietly piano-driven “Katy Kruelly.”
The two sides of this album are refreshingly different, and it could not be unintentional that there is a flow that clearly defines each side. Songs like “Incidental” and “Fools Like Us” play out big, deceivingly upbeat guitar chords behind particularly heavy narratives. The long and rolling guitar and drums of the bluesy “Some Trouble” call to mind Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker through the heavily filtered perspective of modern guitar rock as the vocals are hummed and sung to a simmering outro.
Once the electric blues of the first half of the album have been cemented, the second side plays up the dramatic angle of the album’s lyrical content. The tune “Katy Kruelly” again defies expectations as an acoustic ballad that, like “Some Trouble” calls on the sound of classic Southern blues. The dynamics of high and low carry strongly throughout the remainder of the album, as the last three tracks in particular effectively explore quieter moments of introspection before exploding into operatic crescendos as in the album’s penultimate track “Murder the Season / The Age Nocturne.”
In their most recent release, Two Gallants have succeeded in writing a gritty pop album that is at once accessible while dark and brooding. Although the sounds of fiery slide guitar and thundering drums may jar and at times put the listener off, We Are Undone is an excellent and cohesive product that feels like the work of seasoned, veteran artists.