Kyle Meikle

10:33 4th June 2007

It’s no secret that San Francisco-based/’Dubliners’-dubbed Two Gallants faced a couple of minor brushes with infamy in 2006: first, there was the small swirl of controversy surrounding their inclusion of a cover of Moses Platt’s ‘Long Summer Day’ on last year’s ‘When The Toll Tells’, with the two Bay Area boys dropping the ‘n’ word to ambivalent effect; then, there was their notorious 13 October show at Houston, Texas’s Walter’s On Washington, in which 2G’s Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel ended up tasered and incarcerated (respectively) after refusing to stop playing when cops showed up to investigate a noise complaint at the club.

Maybe that’s why the duo’s latest effort, the lower-than-low-key acoustic EP ‘The Scenery of Farewell’, is as stripped down as it is— and maybe that’s why, rather than drawing from more controversial delta blues inspiration like Platt this time around, they turn to a seemingly more logical source instead: Saddle Creek labelmate Bright Eyes. Indeed, the EP’s five songs practically beg comparison to Conor Oberst’s alt-folk wanderings of late— some (‘Lady’, ‘Up The Country’) more so than others (‘All Your Faithless Loyalties’, ‘Linger On’)— but with the possible exception of the much-blogged about opener ‘Seems Like Home To Me’, each of these tracks bleeds into the next to the point of near-non-recognition … same funereal drum beat, same tentative string-picking, same incidental cello/piano/violin flourishes, same mournful, warbling vocals. At a time when even Bright Eyes is putting out second rate Bright Eyes (see: the underwhelming ‘Cassadaga’), do we really need more second rate Bright Eyes?

The only possible exception to the rule comes up front in ‘Seems Like Home To Me’, with Stephens and Vogel shouting a stirring Baby, let your light shine on me before some rabble-rousing drums transform the track into a dusty slow-step halfway through. ‘Home’ features something that every subsequent song on ‘Scenery’ severely lacks: some moment, some instant, of change or epiphany. There’re a couple of nice flashes of inspiration here and there— the woeful oh oh oh’s on ‘All Your Faithless Loyalties’ spring immediately to mind— but more often than not, the songs verge on monotony to the point of, well, pointlessness. ‘Lady’ thinks it’s building up to something but never quite does, the faux-Western affect of ‘Up The Country’ is just grating, and ‘Linger On’ (nothing more than a slightly altered ‘Loyalties’) commits perhaps the heaviest offense of all, living up to its title with an excruciating 8-minute running time, including one lugubrious harmonica solo.

Two Gallants may like strapping on them ridin’ boots and headin’ for the horizon, but they need to pick up the pace if they want to actually get anywhere (‘Scenery’ precedes a full-length electric album due in the fall, so hopefully that’ll be the case). Right now they’re just stuck aping Bright Eyes in an all-too arid Death Valley.

Released 04/06/07 on Saddlke Creek Records