Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
What Marnie Stern does is she puts us on a wooden roller coaster, one that you're right to question its stability. There's a reason that there aren't all that many operable wooden roller coasters left working in the United States. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere. I've seen one recently and being a real chicken about heights anyway, it looks like a horrible nightmare, just in the roller coaster sense of it. But then you take a closer look and you read that this wooden death ride of amusement park chills and thrills is the 13th oldest coaster in the world and built in 1927 and you determine that you might throw up for all of the people about to go on it. You're ready and willing to fear for their lives, from the safety of the ground.
So Stern doesn't have anything to do with roller coasters, you say, but she has everything to do with putting us on a mostly out of control pathway, up and down hills that make the car we're riding in feel as if it was jumping off the tracks and landing back on them - those propped on 100-year-old wood - hard and with a thud. She makes us feel the hairpin turns in the angry parts of our abdomens and then she winds up dropping us off at the end of the line, the pulse-pounding action over and by us in less than three minutes, most of the time. When you're back down and at a stop, heading out the turnstiles away from the machine, it strikes you that you just zipped through a whole cadre of human emotions in the blink of an eye and if you're able to reflect just a little, you seem to remember the view from the highest point just before the steepest plunge being something miraculous - for reasons that you're not quite familiar with. It might be that you noticed something different come over you, or that she forced you into an out-of-body experience.
You had her exceptionally cool and back alley-raw, but technically inspirational and awesome guitar playing roosting you from your overall fear and it may have been what got you through that plunge. It's not certain at all what got her through the plunge that she needed to write such a thing, but we don't necessarily need to know that. All that we need to know is what she's putting into the thighs of our legs and into our abdominals. Into the thighs she puts that feeling of having been on a springy trampoline and then rudely meeting back with solid ground again. It's such a come-down, a thud at the end of exhilaration. We're not really sure if the exhilaration ever actually stops from one Stern song to the next. They seem to feed off of the same bashing energy and these sentiments of waiting around, smoking as many cigarettes as you can, as you've got and just letting all of the craziness that you've been feeling, all of the scared and jittery notions just run around inside of you like your body was a dirt track.