Mallory – The First One Hundred Years

The First One Hundred Years

So – if I admitted to all of you that at one point in my childhood I was an avid reader, a voracious reader, even, and that I greedily devoured anything I could get my hands upon, and that I had a certain affinity for books which were serialized so that I could follow the adventures of a central cast of characters over hundreds or thousands of pages, and that I established whatever sort of credibility a young man needs to garner in order to label oneself A Literarily Discriminating Young Adult by tackling the Oz series and a dozen Xanth novels and even an entire David Eddings story arc, maybe you could meet me halfway on this one, because the Baby-Sitters’ Club metaphor honestly writes itself, and in order to apply it and back it up, I have to admit to reading not only one novel, but nearly a hundred, if you include Summer Specials, and even the regrettable Baby-Sitters’ Little Sisters series, featuring Kristy’s siblings, and I have some respect to maintain. Readers: I was young, I was foolish, I had the hots for Claudia and her hollow books full of Oreos – show me the suburban Modern Lovers fan who can resist an Asian girl with a sweet tooth! Just try me!
Two Mallorys, then – one a band from Cincinatti, the other a teenage babysitter. Whither the comparison? We’re getting there, folks – a little about the band, first. We’ve got shoegazers here, guys who aren’t so much Puma-ogling as Electro-Harmonix-eyeing; their penchant for slow-going and riff-repetition are borne of caution and a tangible enjoyment rather than simple inexperience. At least that’s what it sounds like, which is good enough for me – hey, as VH1 told me today, Morrissey couldn’t have been sad all the time; unlike Mo Rocca, though, I don’t give a shit. Fake can be just as good, and Mallory sure sound like they’re getting their digs in. “Kokomo Hum” isn’t so much Kokomo as hum – feedback chopped up by guitar play over a single four-measure bassline – but it still works thanks to that implied excitement, somehow – don’t ask me to quantify this! I just write what I think I’m hearing! – putting it head and shoulders above nearly every ham-fisted one-minute lead-in instrumental I’ve ever heard, at five times the length. “Monte Carlo (Method)” is all insistence, recollecting, surprisingly Slint, despite the sine-wave synth-line veering a few inches off the pavement, that the song collapses into at the end. “The Way After” feels a little like latter-day U2 with all the huge sunglasses and America-flag-jackets sucked out, thank god, like Bono woke up one morning, hung over, and realized he was 14 again and could stop all the fucking posturing.
Which is good, because there ain’t much new here. And this is where the metaphor starts to creep in, if we remember Mallory as the mid-run replacement for Stacey, who’d moved to New York. Shy Mallory; young Mallory; slightly self-conscious Mallory. Sure, this band is great at what it does, that much is certain. But there’s so much of this around and widely available, there are so many Coldplays and Grandaddys, there are so many Korg keyboards running through tape loops, there are so many damn babysitters, that we’re really only likely to give credence to the ones that make us want to tip 25%, the ones that you catch yourself humming in the dentist’s office, the ones that Rolling Stone have to, grudgingly, credit, just to be able to sleep at night (and here I am tipping my hat to Broken Social Scene, who own real estate in my tiny critic’s heart).
The moments when Mallory take off, I mean, I don’t want to downplay those, because they are certainly present, and they are non-trivial, but when you enter, even in a general sense, territory that others have claimed and reformed and reinvented so often, you can’t afford songs that are average and pondering and let them stretch out to six and a half minutes, like “F150,” which cops Malkmus’s raised eyebrow to an unforgiveable degree, and “Medicine Cup,” which in all its running time leaves no scratch in my memory, not even a business card – just relief when “Bildungsroman” kicks in like some Orbit B-side and steals my wallet, in its perfect 2:19, making me want more. Make me want more, Mallory.