Neko Case – The Worse Things Get…

nekoNot only was 2009’s Middle Cyclone a hit, but as a slow-burner it bettered and burned just a bit brighter than what Neko Case had brought out previously; yes, even with its ten-plus-minute closer of crickets, Middle Cyclone is a tough fire to put out. Four years on and Case is back to fight.

Case could sing 1-20 in German and many would probably still hold on to each vowel and consonant. She can sing alright, but she’s not shy on the literary either. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (catches breath) is full of musings like, "If I puked up some sonnets would you call me a miracle?" and “My brain makes drugs to keep me slow, A hilarious joke for some dead pharaoh” (both from “Night Still Comes”). Pointing out the absurd is nothing new from Case and overall this album is no great departure.

Case does throw her voice around a little in the hypnotic vocals-only “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”, but really, on album number six, which extreme new adventures in hi-fi would fans like Case to explore, contemporary R&B, drum n bass? Forced experimentation would be vulgar from an artist who manages to make classic pop forms so deliciously and subtly punky. Case has crossed a gamut of styles within the borders of country-indie, whilst managing to keep the sophisticated pop integrity and The Worse Things Get... is a comfortable continuum of this twisted love.

“City Swans” is probably a bit too comfortable than we’ve come to expect from Case and is passable filler. Elsewhere though, the general night time tone is organic, if not always immediate. Noisy lead single “Man” seems like the only overt example of pop on The Worse Things Get... and even this accessibility is a bit odd; its thoughtful questioning of gender as well as lack of obvious chorus hardly creates a jingle or anthem, but then who ever looked to Case for mediocrity? There might be an inclination to slip into her older single “People Got A Lotta Nerve” if singing along, but Case exudes a certain angst and even uses the F word for once, suggesting she doesn’t really care about general expectations or subverting them.

The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You doesn’t attempt to swerve away from past escapades, but Case is graceful as opposed to just old-hat, despite the title’s forthrightness. Yet again musically charming, for many the album will replace Middle Cyclone and The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood from 2006 as a constant player, if at least for a while.

Release: 2nd September 2013, ANTI

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