Wednesday, 29 October 2008

ALBUM: 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 It is It and That is That (Kill Rock Stars)

Like the title hints, this album shows Marnie Stern to be about as obsessive as you’d expect a girl who practiced 4 hours a day to perfect double-handed finger tapping technique that could scare the shit out of Eddie Van Halen. It’s hard to decide whether the admittedly pretty sick guitar work makes the album good or bad. On the first listen it comes across as making the album difficult – opener ‘Prime’ sounds like a lesson in song deconstruction that tries to explain what happened to the rest of the album (especially on ‘Clone Cycle’ where cryptic banter about triangles makes it sound more full of shit than These New Puritans). But then when you listen to it again the hooks are easy to spot and the guitar lines are almost hypnotic. Part of the problem might be the over-reliance on mental guitar solos without bothering with any bass on some songs so there’s nothing to propel them along and they sound like beached whales spasming helplessly on the shore. The album’s definitely at its best when the songs resemble actual songs rather than jam sessions, like ‘The Crippled Jazzer’ and ‘The Package is Wrapped,’ which manage to be exciting and interesting while remaining listenable.

It’s not all that reasonable to expect experimental rock to be easy to listen to, and ‘This Is It’ wouldn’t be at home in an elevator – it demands more careful listening because of how carefully it was crafted. Still, some cuts are so brilliant, like ‘The Devil’s in the Details,’ make it worth giving it the time.

Standout Track: The Devil’s in the Details (or The Crippled Jazzer)

Ollie Khakwani