Song 297: Marnie Stern, “Transformer” (2008)


This song is absolutely bonkers, and that’s what I love most about it. It is completely unhinged, and Marnie Stern plays the shit out of her guitar as if she’ll die is she stops. It’s brutal and it’s unrelenting, like a weather event.

In many ways, this sound matches Stern’s lyrics, which include both frustration and empowerment. “I cannot be all these things to you,” she says many times, but it’s the lyrics that stop the song in its tracks that grab me most: “The future is yours, so fill this part in.” It’s both empowering to herself and the listener, because she’s shaking off her responsibilities and telling the listener to take control. I can’t do everything for you; it’s your turn to be in charge of your actions.

Marnie Stern is obviously a technically amazing guitarist, but she’s not showing off; Stern uses this speed and precision as an opportunity to embolden everyone around her, including herself. She may have let her limbs go slack, but it seems to be out of release, not desperation. She’s turned duty into opportunity, fury into freedom. She’s a transformer.


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