Music Review-Tomorrow The Gallows “The More They Build”
The musical description “folk-punk” gets tossed around pretty loosely around the city of Boston, and for me it conjures up a fairly specific visual. I imagine long time members of the basement rock scene heading back to the familial hearth and home for Thanksgiving, and sometime after Turkey dinner (or, in a lot of cases Tofurkey) when everyone else is in a food coma with the belt undone and pants unbuckled, said member is sifting through Dad’s old vinyl collection and finding his copy of Springsteen’s “Nebraska” and giving it his very first spin.
It leads to a weird new dynamic in the songwriting process. You’ve got the urge to rock out, but also have come to the realization that you’re pushing 30, and aside from roommates, friends and overzealous message board posters, no one really gives a rats ass about your band. Now the only way the singer/guitarist (and it’s always the singer/guitarist that pushes to make this change, if you don’t believe me then look up some of the indisputable and tireless research and evidence available on wikipedia) can convince the rest of the band that packing up the amps and going acoustic, maybe even adding in some obscure instrumentation like a tin whistle or sitar is the only way to go is by giving the bass player the tacit approval to add any of the new songs to whatever mix tape or YSI mix for his/her unrequited object of affection with a note along the lines of “umm so I kinda had you in mind when we wrote this song, I hope you like it”. As the former bass player of good-for-nothing bands of dubious distinction i can assure you that this pitch gets us to do whatever is asked of us.
So with all that baggage hanging overhead, if an acoustic act comsisting of a couple scruffy dides with tatoos is going to keep my attention, it’s got to go above and beyond in the well written and well played with catchy hooks and singalongs department.
And then there’s the two guys in Tomorrow the Gallows, whose first CD “The More They Build” get it spot on right from the get go. The first time I caught these two local guys I was so caught up in every chord and every word that i had the choruses burned into memory by the second time the words rolled around. There is a comfort and intimacy to the dozen songs on this album. I imagine a fair number of them easily written while camped out on the rooftops of the North Shore on a spring night, with the sounds of a Sox game drifting up from a radio placed in the open window below or belted out on rest stops in between long stretches of highway in the midwest. Jeff and Burt make up the two m an wrecking crew that is TTG and play music they way only two best friends can. The subject matter within veers towards the personal, whether recounting stories of the simpler times of being a kid, dealing with mental and physical illness in the family and the simple frustration of being stuck in a van on Storrow Drive as people lose their mind around you. The one punk ethos they’ve kept with their songs is an ability to write simple, catchy chorus that burrow themselves in the listeners skull, and tweaking that left part of the brain responsible for spontaneous singalongs and hoisting of beer steins.
A couple of highlights:
“Open Road” contains my favorite lyric year to date, with its refrain “We’re not stopping to Emma says she’s Thirsty/We’re not stopping unless you have to piss/ You’ve got ten minutes under the fluorescent lights of a rest stop/ Then we’re moving on”. It’s a travelogue song, and it’s languid pace, with its simple, plucked opening chords make me want to pack a knapsack, grab the cat and the ipod and head west with no real destination in mind. Whether or not it’s intentional, there’s a tiredness to the vocals in this track, befitting a song about spending countless hours on the road.
The next-to-closing track “reluctant capitalist” serves as a rally call for all of those whose 9 to 5 job has become a 7 to 7 or longer, who are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, and those who punch the time-clock and ask how they’ve gotten to that spot in that moment of time. With a chorus that begs that question “Are you lost like I am lost?” and in lesser hands this song would be all false bravado, and a call to “blah blah throw down the oppressive tools of blahdeblah” but here you have that simple universal feeling of resentment and desperation, a recognition we all have when you know you’re in a shit situation trying to stretch out a dollar, tinged with a panic we all feel when you can’t make your way out of it.
Also, there’s no bass player whatsoever on these tracks, so the aforementioned scumbag bass player mixtape move is nowhere in play. Check out Tomorrow The Gallow’s webpage for more info on recordings, news and upcoming shows.
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