Wild Mercury Sound

Marnie Stern

John Mulvey

I've been meaning to write about the wonderful Marnie Stern album on Kill Rock Stars for a couple of weeks now. I was tipped off about it by one of Uncut's writers, Louis Pattison, who raved to me about it. She's "an extremely proficient one-woman axe hero," he wrote in an email, "a bit like Deerhoof but with better songs and added lead guitar power." Chuck in the battling influences of Sleater-Kinney and Lightning Bolt and damn, he was right.

"In Advance Of The Broken Arm" is a frantic, exuberant rush of a record. Basically, Stern takes as her base the high-end twiddle and stupid velocity of Lightning Bolt (a sort of deranged, minimalist hardcore prog duo, if you've never come across them. They only play gigs on floors rather than stages, and I once saw them instigate a sit-down moshpit. It was amazing). The drummer is a guy called Zach Hill from Hella, who I've always considered something of a math-rock version of Lightning Bolt, but he has great octopoid skills here, contributing to the general frenzy.

Over all this, Stern adds really joyful songs called things like "Plato's Fucked Up Cave" and my current favourite, "Put All Your Eggs In One Basket And Then Watch That Basket!!!" It's some gift to make catchy pop music out of what is effectively avant-garde metal, but she does it throughout "In Advance Of The Broken Arm".

It reminds me, in a way, of how PJ Harvey was initially so inspired by the music of Big Black and the '80s US underground, but twisted those influences into something that was accessible but never felt compromised. I think Stern draws on the leftfield rock of the past few years in a similar way. And I also reckon that there's enough wit, melody and energy, never mind finger-shredding technical prowess, here to suggest that, like Harvey, Stern might go on to bigger things. Let's hope so. Here's the obligatory Myspace link.

Finally, the Bjork album is on its way to Uncut even as I write. I'll post a preview tomorrow.


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