Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Marnie Stern -- 'Shea Stadium'

The above video comes from Pitchfork TV, who have an entire set's worth of excellent Marnie Stern performances online right now. Thanks again Sean!

Also: this song! I love the way it exists at the exact point where chaotic noise and genuine beauty meet. The way the lyrics keep on circling around the word 'center' makes me think that this is deliberate, because it's always suggesting a musical core without ever pinpointing it. And hey, here's an awkward truth for ya -- I originally thought that the lyrics to this song included the repeated refrain 'Fight/In-to/Flight', which seemed like a perfect encapsulation of the way the music turns this total war of guitars and drums into something beautiful, you know? In this reading of the song, it wasn't so much about fighting then running as it was fighting your way to takeoff.

According to Marnie's myspace and the album sleeve, the actual lyrics are 'Right into the night', which makes 'Shea Stadium' great in an entirely different way. The first time this refrain pops up, it follows the words 'Bigger than big/ That's how you start it', which makes it seem huge and optimistic. When it's repeated, it follows on from the line 'You said to me/ I'm empty hearted/Bigger than big/ That's how you parted'. In this context, it's a devastated goodbye, but the way Stern closes the song all riffs a-blazing suggests that no matter how big the situation gets she's got the power to plow on. What can I say, self-help rhetoric sounds real good when you replace words with guitars!

I wonder: is the stadium of the title a setting or a metaphor? At first I thought it was neither, but right now I think it might be both...

UPDATE: listening to this live version of 'Shea Stadium' again does interesting things for my interpretation of the song. It's ridiculously clear that the lyrics are 'Right into the night' during this performance, but I've also noticed that Marnie alternated the use of 'parted', 'started' and 'start it' freely during the 'Bigger than big' refrains. Deliberate or otherwise, this doesn't do much to alter the meaning of the song, but it does make it feel even more decentered. Which is good, because if you're going to play with chaos you might as well go all the way, right?

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