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Marnie Stern: This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It And She Is It And...

Marnie Stern: This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It And She Is It And...

Label:Kill Rock Stars
Release Date:2008

By Michael Byrne | Posted 10/22/2008

Look at the title of this, all 30 words of it, and you might notice how it kind of bleeds off the page in a staccato blur, how it's too much information and not enough at the same time. Now move the feeling around to your ears, knock it off its axis--shake it up, jumble the letters--coat it in copper, and amplify it. A lot. OK, now you're getting close to what the noise-rock guitar force-of-nature Marnie Stern is capable of. She offered a glimpse when she released her debut on Kill Rock Stars two years ago, In Advance of the Broken Arm, a series of intensely barreling, noisy sprints between her guitar and Zach Hill's (of Hella) superhuman drum work. It seemed like a lot of folks didn't know what to make of it beyond, Damn, a woman shredding like her fingers were pure electricity.

The catch was that those exhausting songs hadn't been quite fully formed, as made hear very clear on her sophomore release, This Is It. Stern works this time around with broad structural strokes as much as she's nano-managing guitar riffs. Much of this is, dare say, catchy; the songs are frequently engaging, have hooks, showcase her airily shrill vocals (the introspective "Steely"), and embrace empty space, adding up to a sort of proggish punk rawk. Opener "Prime" finds her chanting along to a wood block for 40 seconds before Hill splits open the album with what sounds like the opening salvos of a Civil War battle. "The Package Is Wrapped" delivers Stern vocals that break out into soulful charges. And "Shea Stadium" is a mathy, quickly shifting tune that recalls Deerhoof or Ponytail. The record is still rather draining--Stern and Hill never drop below "brisk jog"--but we're fairly certain we'd be disappointed otherwise.

E-mail Michael Byrne

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