Marnie Stern, In Advance of the Broken Arm
Kill Rock Stars’ phenom guitarist puts out her solo debut.
“Put All Your Eggs in One Basket and Then Watch That Basket!!!” is the best song on Marnie Stern’s stunning debut album. It’s also a great metaphor for her modus operandi: reportedly practicing the guitar for more than three hours a day for the last several years, Stern has given her all to the craft of shredding. But it’s a fertile basket: even masterly Don Caballero/ Battles six-stringer Ian Williams might have trouble recreating Stern’s manic guitar pyrotechnics. While that fact might send some listeners running for the hills in fear of the cartoon violence and brutal prog that such virtuosity frequently brings, Stern crucially grounds her tunes in pop structures, rarely turning in a track that’s longer than four minutes. Her chirpy speak-sing vocals offer a modicum of relief from the surrounding maelstrom as well bringing the sometimes-unhinged drumming of Hella‘s Zach Hill back down to earth on songs like “Healer,” where she wails Hill into eventual submission. In Advance of the Broken Arm isn’t an easy listen — and Stern rarely gives you a way in, despite what the burned-out slow jam “Logical Volume” or the abstract funk of “Every Single Line Means Something” might have you believe — but those repelled by the goofiness and obscurantism of bands like Hella and Crime in Choir may find just what they’re looking for in Marnie Stern.