Two Gallants (accent on the second syllable, thank you very much) have a serious problem: Their live show is so real, so visceral, spellbinding, exhausting, hilarious and riddled with crazed pathos that no recording could possibly do it justice. Tyson Vogel's relationship to his drum kit is among the most fraught I've ever witnessed, stick connecting with snare with such inhuman force that it looks like he's trying to punch straight through to the floor with every beat. On top of that, Vogel and guitarist-vocalist Adam Stephens are so tight on stage that they seem telepathically connected, performing hairpin tempo shifts with an almost excessive, military-style precision that somehow bolsters rather than dampens the reckless soul of their weirdly accessible blues-and-country-derived thrash. Really, there's nothing about these guys that doesn't seem ill advised: Stephens, who in a certain light resembles a young Leo DiCaprio, shreds his larynx painfully on lines like "If you've got a throat, I've got a knife," as if the words were the dregs of his very being and not just the throwaway misanthropy they appear to be on paper. Last time I saw TG they seemed to be pushing themselves way too hard: The audience was totally on their side, but it was like both guys believed that if they didn't give up their last drop of blood, they weren't really working. The new What the Toll Tells disc (Saddle Creek) is equally heartbreaking, offensive, cacophonous, catchy and varied -- well worth checking out. But if you want the real deal, get the hell out to the gig.
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