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- The Chronicles Of Marnia by Marnie Stern
9/10 Mike Staff review, 21 March 2013
Ahh! Marnie Stern’s new album is finally in our office! It’s one of those times when we got sent the promo CD so early that I already know the thing inside out, having played it on repeat through much of a couple of back-breaking weekends alone in the office painting our eye-catching mural. I have to say, while I’ve been a fan of Stern’s for some time now, this is my favourite of her releases to date, with more of a poppy, melodic approach (especially to the vocals) and the steady yet bombastic hands of Oneida’s Kid Millions replacing the tech-splatter style of her previous sticksman, Hella etc’s Zach Hill. Freed from some of her earlier chaos, I think this album has more elements of Deerhoof and Ponytail than her previous efforts.
It’s hard to pick out favourite tracks since they all whiz past in such a blur and stylistically they’re all pretty similar - hard, bright power-pop with plenty of Marnie’s trademark fingertapping and big, full-throated choruses. The lyrics are wonderful too, they seem deeply personal and introspective but also positive and uplifting, like a good chat with a friend, as she casually doles out her homespun wisdom, opining a “No-one ever really understands anybody else’s life” mantra in ‘Still Moving’, while in ‘Proof Of Life’ she insists “The work is never done. And that is all I have. And I can’t get it right.” She saves a real highlight for last, too, with ‘Hell Yes’ channelling the late great Party Of Helicopters with its spindly metallic guitar lines and falsetto vocals lamenting life on the road: “When the missing doesn’t stop/ Loneliness will cut you up...I’ve got time on my hands/ All I’ve got is time”, fading out to imply that this is only the end of what we can hear.
It gives the impression of a restless creative spirit, always trying to understand, always trying to express, always trying to connect. And that I think is the key to the magic, perfection even, which Marnie Stern has achieved here. Despite her flashy chops and illustrious collaborators, there’s an undercurrent of insecurity, a struggle with self-improvement and what self-improvement means, where she is so disarmingly open about her inner life that the listener feels like she’s already on their side. It’s a beautiful thing.
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