Itâ€™s no secret that San Francisco-based/â€™Dublinersâ€™-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 Plattâ€™s â€˜Long Summer Dayâ€™ on last yearâ€™s â€˜When The Toll Tellsâ€™, with the two Bay Area boys dropping the â€˜nâ€™ word to ambivalent effect; then, there was their notorious 13 October show at Houston, Texasâ€™s Walterâ€™s On Washington, in which 2Gâ€™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 thatâ€™s why the duoâ€™s latest effort, the lower-than-low-key acoustic EP â€˜The Scenery of Farewellâ€™, is as stripped down as it isâ€” and maybe thatâ€™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 EPâ€™s five songs practically beg comparison to Conor Oberstâ€™s alt-folk wanderings of lateâ€” some (â€˜Ladyâ€™, â€˜Up The Countryâ€™) more so than others (â€˜All Your Faithless Loyaltiesâ€™, â€˜Linger Onâ€™)â€” but with the possible exception of the much-blogged about opener â€˜Seems Like Home To Meâ€™, each of these tracks bleeds into the next to the point of near-non-recognition â€¦ 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 â€˜Cassadagaâ€™), do we really need more second rate Bright Eyes?
The only possible exception to the rule comes up front in â€˜Seems Like Home To Meâ€™, 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. â€˜Homeâ€™ features something that every subsequent song on â€˜Sceneryâ€™ severely lacks: some moment, some instant, of change or epiphany. Thereâ€™re a couple of nice flashes of inspiration here and thereâ€” the woeful oh oh ohâ€™s on â€˜All Your Faithless Loyaltiesâ€™ spring immediately to mindâ€” but more often than not, the songs verge on monotony to the point of, well, pointlessness. â€˜Ladyâ€™ thinks itâ€™s building up to something but never quite does, the faux-Western affect of â€˜Up The Countryâ€™ is just grating, and â€˜Linger Onâ€™ (nothing more than a slightly altered â€˜Loyaltiesâ€™) 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 ridinâ€™ boots and headinâ€™ for the horizon, but they need to pick up the pace if they want to actually get anywhere (â€˜Sceneryâ€™ precedes a full-length electric album due in the fall, so hopefully thatâ€™ll be the case). Right now theyâ€™re just stuck aping Bright Eyes in an all-too arid Death Valley.
Released 04/06/07 on Saddlke Creek Records