Neko Case is an American Alt-Country singer/songwriter who is also part of the Canadian Indie collective The New Pornographers. The Worse It Gets, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fght, The More I Love You (I hate long album titles that don’t need to be long. It’s silly.) is her sixth full solo album and it’s been four years since her last, and most successful, Middle Cyclone.
A lot has happened to Neko since that last album, handily documented in this interview I helpfully Googled for you.
That so much tragedy has preceded this album isn’t immediately obvious, it sounds almost cheerful on a few of the songs. It’s after a couple of closer listens that the grief and sorrow start to show themselves. Lyrically The Worse It Gets… is, forgive the cliché, a more personal record than previous releases. Earlier songs tended to be stories or based on characters whereas the vast majority of these songs are quite clearly autobiographical and deal with the death of her parents. Wild Creatures, seems to detail her attempts to remain optimistic and vibrant despite her loss. The way her voice almost cracks in the closing, plaintive line “There’s no Mother’s hand to quiet me” is heart breaking.
Night Still Comes is just as mournful but a little more defiant with a sense of inevitability about it. First single Man is most definitely defiant and bolshie. “You didn’t know what a man was until I showed you”. It’s a strident confident song that gives way to the bitter I’m From Nowhere; a sparse ballad that exudes despondency and exhaustion.
Further on the sparseness is repeated on the acapella Nearly Midnight, Honolulu and her cover of Nico(off of The Velvet Underground)’s Afraid has a few, occasional notes on a keyboard but other than that is also pretty much acapella.
This all made up for by the final track, Ragtime which closes things up nicely in a brass fuelled crescendo.
One thing that hasn’t changed with The Worse It Gets… is the length of the album. None of them outstay their welcome and all but one are under the 40 minute mark. Several songs on this album are under 3 minutes long and only two are over 4 minutes.
This is a solid, well-written album with no excessive fat or pointless meandering and is all the better for it. Neko Case is rare in that, there's no particular album to recommend to someone. Perhaps more importantly, there's not one to warn away from either. They're all of a great standard and indicative of her sound without becoming samey.
7 out of 10 This is good and well worth a check