Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Neko Case has been away for quite a while. In the meantime she’s experienced parental loss and some dark times personally. It’s easy to find evidence of them on her new album. At the end of the first song, ‘Wild Creatures’, she tells us painfully that “There’s no mother’s hands to quiet me”. On ‘Bracing For Sunday’ the protagonist is staring at the ceiling waiting for her “purpose to deliver and reveal itself”. It doesn’t. And there’s a definite sense that the events in her life have left some unresolved issues. This is an angry Neko Case at times. There’s some cussing. And on the same ‘Bracing For Sunday’ her character tells us how she murders a particularly nasty guy. And she doesn’t just murder him, she shoots him through his “jelly eye”. We’re a long way here from the eco-friendly themes of Middle Cyclone. All the same, this is still recognisably a Neko Case album. There are the up tempo guitar-led songs, and the quieter, more wistful numbers. And above it all, soaring as usual, is the voice, sounding just as wonderful as ever. There is one misstep. ‘Nearly Midnight, Honolulu’ tries too hard to get across its point and becomes a little preachy. But the rest is a case of Neko perfection. While perhaps nothing stands out as much as ‘This Tornado Loves You’ from the previous album, almost every song has something special to say. The stories. The phrasing. And, even in the dark times, the self-assurance. Like all great works of art, there’s something to learn from this album. How to make it through the tough times and how to come out the other side an even stronger person. Good lessons.