Pitchfork review of "The Throes" :
So when youth produces a work of such force, when the raw or supposedly na�ve artist comes up with something universal, critics and fans rejoice. We want to latch on to a beautiful thing before its green genius withers under the glare of success. Such is the case with Two Gallants' debut The Throes. The San Francisco duo responsible for this gut-wrenching musical tragedy both just turned 21, yet somehow their musical hindsight extends far beyond recent memory and taps into a rusty vein swollen with grief, heartache and violent desperation.
When songwriting this evocative is paired with playing so dynamic, especially in an acoustic setting, Dylan comparisons are inevitable. Given Two Gallants' guitar and drums lineup and rustic blues-based repertoire, many might cry White Stripes as well. There are better analogies, though: More narrative than abstract, Adam Stephenson's lyrics are closer to Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter's romantic Old West allegories, luckless sagas of trains and booze and double-crossing lovers. Meanwhile, Tyson Vogel's shifting thoroughbred pulse on drums is less Meg White then Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. That The Black Keys' and Two Gallants' debut releases were both released on Alive Records is no coincidence; both embrace a hardened revivalist style that owes a lot to the dark Delta legends. But the mug-swinging sea shanty bluster and jailbreak urgency Two Gallants add to indie rock's newfound blues idolatry are purely original, and make The Throes an electric, unforgettable listen.
There's a modernizing of old styles here-- the album begins with a frantic garage-rock rearrangement of the 1930s Reverend Robert Wilkins track "You Losing Out". The gutsy "Nothing to You" opens like an angry country blues rant but tosses in some clever quips: "My kind's been around forever/ Yet I claim to be one of the few/ And the lost cause of words walks away with my nerves/ 'Cause I'm gay as a choir boy for you," and then later, "I followed you into the party/ That no one invited me to/ But I got so drunk and retarded/ I fell down the stairs and I fell into you."
Forgoing conventional verse/chorus/verse structure, these songs build a creaking work song practicality and archetypal power. "Fail Hard to Regain" contains almost no repetition, but Stephenson's reedy voice tears into the subconscious and lodges mercilessly like a tick. It's the albums most raucous, ballsy composition, Stephenson's harmonica and guitar perfectly punctuated by Vogel's storming percussion, and yet with speaks in stanzas reminiscent of a whiskey-soaked Dylan Thomas poem: "'Twas on a dark March evening, southbound I did ride/ My head was out the window when I found her at my side/ Asked where I was going to, I told her from where I came/ For the jails in which I've done my time, I fail hard to regain."
That soulful Pogues-style urbanizing of down-home bumpkinism, combined with an unbridled, youthful vigor, balances the album's startlingly troubling themes. "The Throes" tells intimately of a vicious, abusive relationship; accompanied by cello, "Crow Jane" is a haunting version of a traditional murder ballad covered by the likes of Skip James and Nick Cave. Like a course in musicology these songs bring out an incredible richness of history, telling stories based on the half-truths and legends that bring the ghosts of long dead musicians and musical styles into new light.
James Joyce was in his early 20s when he finished the short story of shiftless, dissolute youth that Two Gallants take their name from. Dubliners, the collection in which the story appeared in 1905, would later be hailed a literary masterpiece. Suffering only in its somewhat understated production, The Throes could be considered a masterpiece of new American roots music. It's a heavy emotional investment, a struggle of the most fulfilling kind. There's a lot to learn from these young bards, as much as they've learned in their short lives. When brilliance arrives so early it's always that much more profound. - Jonathan Zwickel
Rolling Stone review of "The Throes" :
On this San Francisco duo's debut, childhood pals Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel channel early-twentieth-century blues, folkies such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and current indie punk -- and they play all the instruments. Highlight: the brutally witty Irish-folk-flavored title ballad.