Despite the fact that they’ve been playing music together since they were both twelve years old, and have performed under the Two Gallants name since 2002, not too long ago it seemed like we might never hear another album from folk rock duo Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel. Following their 2004 debut and an incredibly productive period between 2006 and 2007 where they released two fine follow up albums an EP in between, it took a whole five years for them to return with The Bloom & The Blight in 2012. While they may not have regained their earlier rate of productivity, we haven’t had to wait quite as long this time for album number five, and it carries on directly from where the last album left off.
While historically the duo could be at their most enthralling when letting loose on tracks like ‘Las Cruces Jail’, the faster, louder songs on We Are Undone often feel a bit undercooked – tracks like ‘Incidental’ and ‘Fools Like Us’ are stand outs on first listen but they lose momentum with repeat plays. Like the last album, the distortion has been turned up to eleven, which still doesn’t entirely suit them, and results in the impression that they’re perhaps attempting to do a Black Keys and manage a similar bluesy crossover into the mainstream late in their career – or at least it would were it not for self deprecating lyrics like, “Fools like us just don’t belong”. It is impressive hearing a guitar and drum duo sound so huge and bludgeoning, but the intimacy of earlier releases feels lost.
Meanwhile the title track’s guitar licks open the album on a note that sounds a touch too close to 80s hair metal but it does manage to morph into a more typical and memorable Two Gallants track once the vocals kick in, Stephens snarling “Father, has the marketplace done us any good/like you always claimed it would?”. But really it’s slower moments like the piano led tracks ‘Invitation To The Funeral’ and closer ‘There’s So Much I Don’t Know’ that are the real enduring highlights, as melodic and captivating as the Two Gallants of old.
It’s not a weak album by any means – taken as a whole, We Are Undone is another largely solid album from the pair, and overall a more interesting and varied listen than its disappointing predecessor, but when played alongside The Throes, What The Toll Tells or their 2007 self titled effort it becomes apparent that the songwriting is often no longer in quite the same league as it once was. Cathal McBride