Sunday, February 10, 2008

MARNIE STERN — IN ADVANCE OFTHE BROKEN ARM

MARNIE STERN — IN ADVANCE OFTHE BROKEN ARM

It's about time someone got their Rush in your Sonic Youth and made some demonic Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of an album. This thing is crazy. You know how Built to Spill really love Lynard Skynard and Neil Young and the influence of both permeates everything they do, but they create songs no one would confuse with either of their inspirations (except for that cover of Freebird)? A similar case could be made for Marnie Stern. She seems to have come at music from Tom Sawyer town along Boredoms road.

Which isn't, in itself, all that unique. Certainly indie rock has been secretly mining prog since everyone learned the Pet Sounds formula to sounding just like every other band that wanted to sound like Brian Wilson. Radiohead, OOIOO, Battles... whoever. People have been sticking their hands into second-hand bins for Tales of Topographic Oceans and mining the best parts to fuse to noise and Pavement rhythms and whatever else for the about a decade now.

But Stern isn't grabbing a hint of a sound so much as she is taking one particular band, speeding their shit up and shotgun-weddinging it to wild, slap-dash drums, broken rhythms, swirling noise, overdubbed spirit squad vocals playing with bizzare poetry.

It's a lot happening, and it's usaully happening all at one. It can be really overwhelming, especially since there are times when it's all in the same place in the mix. It's a very loud album, and you need halfway decent headphones and a few listens to fully appreciate all the sounds and find the different levels. Don't try this with earbuds, but do try this at home.

You'll be excused if it all sounds a bit like an assault on your central nervous system or that there are times when no one seems to know how to play their instruments or sing or write a song, but then you realize that there's new sorts of hooks going on here and that everyone can play, they just play differently than you expect them to. A drum roll is in the 'wrong' spot, a new wave synth appears somewhere around the edges, almost everything drops out and you wonder if you've been listening to some Depeche Mode bass line the whole time.

And then there's the pyrotechnics. Serious, devil-gone-to-georgia playing the guitar so fast you can see the smoke coming off the strings. And it all comes in bursts, guitars and drums, but the bursts come in bursts like Pop Rocks full of lightning solos.

And there's familiar beauty in there too. A nostalgia amongst the noise and transformation, not just for Canadian prog rockers, but also for classical pop structures. It's just that those structures are cut up or squeezed or ripped apart. They're in there, but you might not recognize them at first.

It's a pretty exciting album.

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