American singer-songwriter Neko Case does not amble but strolls away from her past labelling of a “rockabilly” country-singer with her latest album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. Whilst some may lament the lack of country vibes to this latest album, Case’s punchy lyrics and rousing ballads which culminate in a powerful expression of resilience and brutal honesty makes The Worse Things Get… a heady exploration into Case’s personal issues, presenting the listener with an album which is difficult to ignore.
Case invites you to explore the provocative concept of gender roles and the restriction of femininity in her goading song ‘Man‘ in which she comments “I was surprised when you called me a lady, ‘cause I’m still not so sure that’s what I want to be,” Whilst Nearly Midnight, Honolulu is a culmination of raw, lyrical brutality punctured by uncomfortable, haunting lyrics such as “My Mother, she did not love me” which far removes Case’s album from the genre of easy-listening.
Case’s stunning voice maintains The Worse Things Get… as a melodic and upbeat album as she blithely tackles dark themes with a resonating, triumphant tone which ignites fire in the soul and throws the listener some of the most memorable and quotable lyrics of the year (“is it cause. I’m a girl? If I puked up some sonnets, would you call me a miracle?”). Case presents a cacophony of sound and whilst the album may not feel perfect (some album tracks such as ‘Afraid’ and ‘City Swans’ are slightly lacklustre and the lyrics confused), there is no denying that Case has come back from her four year absence with a vengeance, tackling personal grief with admirable honesty whilst packing a gender punch which leaves the audience asking, what will she deliver next?
By Tessa Pullen