Two Gallants have spent the last two years ploughing a groove on the Americana circuit, contributing to albums by the likes of the Fence Collective and playing almost schizophrenic live sets that verve from aggressive, electric folk to lo-fi simplicity and heart-rending lyricism. No wonder the two San Franciscans have drawn comparison with The Pogues (indeed the first time I saw them was at Shane McGowan’s favourite watering hole, the Boogaloo in north London).
On The Scenery Of Farewell, Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska is more to mind as an influence. Designed as an hors d’oeuvre before their forthcoming third album, a full-blown electric set, due September, its five tracks may be familiar to fans of their live set, especially those who enjoyed past acoustic numbers Crow Jane from debut album The Throes and Some Slender Rest from last year’s critically acclaimed What The Toll Tells.
It kicks off with the lazily anthemic Seems Like Home To Me, a drunken last waltz before sundown, for boys too drunk to fuck to shuffle round the dancefloor with girls too drunk to care. Mournful violin is underscored by shattering drums and a chorus of lost souls.
Lady begins more subtly, though it is equally melancholic as Adam Fontaine’s vocal mourns lost love and yet more rejection. Unable to resist the build of emotion, however, it rises to a crescendo of self-pity and bitterness that should please even the most blighted broken heart: “Lady I can’t take no rest, with all this weight across my chest.”
Chests – or the bleeding hearts displayed from them – are a leitmotif on the EP. And feature heavily in All Your Favourite Loyalties, which follows Up The Country which has nice line in Oedipal rage and diffident anger. All Your Favourite Loyalties features the strongest lyric, and real passion flows in the poetry, which elsewhere lacks enough musical texture to save the EP from bland wallowing misery.
All Your Favourites collides evocative images of women “dressed by candlelight” with “lips of red and robes of white, who step out to pulverize the night”, with those of war heroes bedecked in medals and hints at writing talent capable of rising above the ceaseless via dolorosa of the other tracks.
It is respite not built to last, and Linger On provides a return to the mournful dirge of the rest of the CD. As a late night song to clear the drunks from the dance floor it works. Tales of bleak nights and broken hearts are guaranteed to send the maudlin home happy and indulged. It merely left me glad to know that their new album will be fully electric, and hope it offers some respite from the bleak introspection of the EP.