Six years and two albums after her masterpiece Fox Confessor Brings the Flood — for which she essentially established her own, one-woman genre — the peripatetic Neko Case drops the even more preciously titled The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-). The title offers a hint: The uneven collection of 15 tracks smacks of contrivance, as if she’s trying just a bit too hard.
Case has sublimated her penchant for elliptical melodies, one of her strengths, in favor of more straightforward hooks, buoyed by a handful of sturdy rock songs. The most unabashed of these is “Man,” a hard-charger that finds her declaring, “I’m a man / You’ll have to deal with me / My proxy is mine / You’ll deal with me directly.”
Case’s lyrics are often riddles, and this is one of her more plainspoken salvos, although it does fit into one of the album’s prevalent themes, that of identity.
Case seems bent on countering the straightforward rock tunes by raising the stakes on her experimental side, and here is where she fails. The lullaby-ish “Afraid” and floaty “Where Did I Leave That Fire” (underpinned by bleeping submarine sounds) are all but stillborn. “Madonna of the Wasps” is a cluttered mess.
The Worst Things Get fares best with songs that sound like outtakes from Fox Confessor: lead-off tracks “Wild Creatures” and “Night Still Comes” balance intimacy with stately grandeur and best showcase Case’s force-of-nature voice. When, on the latter, she repeats “You never held it at the right angle,” raising the emotional temperature with each pass, it’s a spine-tingling reminder of what makes Neko Case so damn great. (Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars) Neko Case stops in Ponte Verde Beach on Oct. 25, the only Florida date on her current tour.
Excellent review, sorry I missed the concert.
I was fortunate to see Bonnie Raitt. Her stage presence was heart warming and her…
loved it! Well worth the $$.