The Mallard have broken up. Blame it on the notorious trials and tribulations that come along with a sophomore album; blame it on the overbearing crush of SXSW; blame it on line-up changes; blame it on the wide swath of inter-personal dramas that rage in the heart of any great band; hell, blame it on anything and everything you want – just know, The Mallard have broken up, and, to be quite honest, I’m pretty sad. Out of the at times overwhelming wave of garage-influenced bands that flooded the San Francisco scene over the course of the last five years, The Mallard stood very close to the top, with front-woman Greer McGettrick handily able to craft a selection of songs that balanced the distorted needs of San Francisco garage with a distinct twinge of oddity and fun. Yes On Blood, the band’s inaugural album, I still believe is one of the highlights of San Francisco’s obsessive dalliance with fuzzed out rock and roll, an edgy, somehow entertaining blast of two and half minute tracks that found an almost permanent home on this writer’s record player.
Finding Meaning In Deference, the band’s second and final album, pulses with an teeth-grinding intensity. As an album it’s certainly more grown up, the good-natured fun of Yes On Blood replaced with the pained neurosis and a dark dip in to churning psychedelia, and you can almost feel the omens of band break-up lingering in the much more dangerous corners. Here McGettrick isn’t reigned in by the influences of her city, gone are the sonic references to Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, their voids filled with allusions to Wire and the shadowy sound of British post-punk. What emerges is a scalding, almost emotionally draining collection of songs that marks the progress of McGettrick as a musician as well as the momentum change of the San Francisco scene. When it comes down to it, I prefer the melodic crunch of Yes On Blood, but blame nostalgia for that, Finding Meaning In Deference is the more mature, the more insightful album. In the end, it’s heavier, emotionally-wrought sound seems a fitting way to end the too short life a damn good band.