Neko Case "The Worse Things Get The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight The More I Love You"

Neko Case offers a brutally aggressive examination of loss and depression

Everyone experiences traumas that tilt your axis, throwing your personal orbit off kilter - divorce, death, the loss of a job. You may find yourself spinning out of control, or sinking into depression, but such events also offer the opportunity to examine your life. If you’re an artist it might offer the added incentive to exercise (or exorcise) your demons in public. Neko Case hasn’t been in the habit of using her personal life in her music but she’s made an exception for her latest album, a seething, sometimes brutally honest account of several tumultuous years in her recent past, including the loss of several family members.  

Having once described in her bio as having been raised by wild animals one could surmise that Case had parental issues. She’s been much more blunt about this in recent interviews and it permeates the atmosphere of the album. After losing both parents in rapid succession Case found it difficult to mourn for two people with whom she had a distant and dysfunctional relationship. The result was a protracted depression captured boldly in the song “Night Still Comes.” She sings “My brains makes drugs to keep me slow/a hilarious joke for some dead pharaoh/but now not even the masons know/what drug will keep night from coming.” Her pain is tempered by a brittle sense of humor and a total lack of self-pity. Case isn’t one to mope but she sure is willing to vent her rage, frustration, sadness, confusion, and other roiling emotions via impassioned, vocals and strings of profanity. In a strange way The Worse Things Get … is inspirational and anything but boring.

Often Case’s songs are confrontational. “Man” challenges gender stereotypes particularly where behavior is involved.  “Bracing For Sunday” is a ballad that embraces the “eye-for-an-eye” mentality.” The most shocking track is “Almost Midnight, Honolulu.” In stark, a cappela fashion, Case recounts an ugly chance encounter she witnessed between a mother and her child. She repeats the verbal abuse directed at the child in all its bold profanity. A plaintive reworking of Nico’s (Velvet Underground) “Afraid” features My Morning Jacket members Bo Koster on vibes and Carl Broemel on autoharp, and Marc Ribot on piano.

Neko Case offers an agressive look at depression through brutally honest lyrics and gorgeous melodies.

Neko Case is often categorized as alt-country and certainly there is plenty here to back up that sensibility, but that only captures part of what she’s created. As a member of The New Pornographers she’s been involved with some of the best indie rock albums of the last decade.

Several members of that band contribute to the album, as well as Jim James of My Morning, multiple members of Calexico, Howe Gelb. M. Ward is a dominant force on guitar. Tempos wane and ebb, production is complex, matched by the lyrical content. Neko Case is a force to be reckoned with, a major talent who can wear her insides on the outside and make you love her for it.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)