In something of a rarity, the Gallantiers are musicians actually enjoying being out and about in the great flood of unwashed humanity. While not necessarily a virtue, this is a welcome change in an age of artists as bedroom-based, bum-fluff-faced, beat & loop tinkerers. It also gives their songs a sense of purpose: We live in Hamburg, we meet all sorts of people, this is what and who we care about, this is what amuses and disgusts us, here are a few stories, and this is our music.
Red in Tooth & Claw lives up to its title (which references Darwin, Dawkins and Tennyson) by staying on the attack. It’s a refreshing album with straightforward crunchy riffs and sharp guitar work. The stripped-back sound with minimal overdubs is hard rocking but mixed so that every word is audible, and with enough changes of pace and tone to flow like a concert. All of which points to a group with the chops and experience to produce the goods in a live setting.
From the first razor-sharp riff of “Mystery School” to the ambitious fictional narrative of the title track (which wouldn’t sound out of place in an Alex Cox movie if the Bad Seeds weren’t available), the focus and tightness is exemplified by Justin Farrow’s edgy and uncluttered guitar. His lovely fills on “Stand, My Lovely” demonstrate that the group could have added more to these songs but chose not to keep things simple—the somewhat languid (if not exactly mellow) “Crooked Satellite” relies more on the rhythms of spoken word than on a guitar riff. Throughout the album, Farrow’s voice mixes sincerity with a little braggadocio, which allows him to pull off tough and tender lyrics. To some extent, the language gives off a pong of romantic squalor, but even that is a hoot, not least as it evokes the scene from Withnail & I in which perfume fails to mask the vomit-stained shoes.
Red in Tooth & Claw is refreshing—it sounds like proof that at least some musicians aren’t merely trying to create layered background music for car commercials. With their “proper rock” approach, the Gallantiers aren’t trying to set new trends or be ironic and retro-kitsch. As such, the album is like the pleasure of holding a real, secondhand book rather than gawping at a plastic reading device. Maybe rumors of the demise of the rather fetching undead corpse of the Ghost of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll were premature.