RiYL: Battles, Deerhoof, Hella, Kaki King, Liars, Mae Shi, Melt Banana, Sleater-Kinney, Van Halen
A raging waterfall is crashing and splashing among the rapids or, perhaps, it is a simulation of those same river rapids. A ride at a theme park! Boxed in, surrounded by families and thrill seekers, but nonetheless a river with rapids. This is the illusion and dichotomy that is found within Marnie Stern’s sophomore album 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
An air of chaos floats through the songs both musically and thematically. The crashing drums weave with the dissonant and skillfully played guitar and punctuated vocals which are an instrument in their own right. The style borders on math rock with tangents at various times to a watered down version of punk rock.
The punk rock ideal does seem to fit the overall mood of the album. There is an intense and earnest desire driving the momentum of this hard-hitting album, but the cause of the desire varies from track to track, verse to verse. She looks for a fight, looks to avoid a fight, looks for a meaning and, of course, looks for love. All of these things are done with the same drive and energy. You can wait for the intensity to die, but it will not. Even the folksy and somewhat Dylan-esque introduction is very forceful.
Reality is fleeting in the world of this album. The ideas and themes seem to have no real anchor anywhere. While the sounds may seem rhythmic and somewhat cyclical to the extreme, the illusions and statements can come out of thin air and throw you off, much like a rock in the rapids. As alluded to earlier, the sound seems boxed in somehow as if the constant intensity somewhat marks off the limits like a raging tornado in a small fish bowl. The strength is there, but it isn’t going anywhere.
But for all its low variation the album leaves you well. If it is a river rapids ride, then we are fortunate it is not a poorly designed one which inevitably flips over midway through and drowns the poor teenager who was forced to ride it by her oh-so-lame parents. Yes, very fortunate.
In summary, it is a good departure from In Advance of the Broken Arm. The quality is much clearer and the style is more fresh with the same old intensity and drive, including some attempts to incorporate different ideas, if only sparingly.