Album Review: Neko Case's 'The Worse Things Get... ' looks at the dark side
Neko Case’s follow-up to “Middle Cyclone,” finds her in a far more personal mood. On that 2009 album, she explored forces of nature. On “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You,” Case tackles something much harder to wrangle: her own life.
Case wrote and recorded “The Worse Things Get” during a time of great turmoil: her grandmother, whom she was close to, and both her parents, whom she was not, died and she plunged into a depression. Much of the tunes carry a sense of tumult, a near fruitless attempt at making sense amid the chaos. Buoyed by her crystalline vocals, the songs transcend the maudlin to become something much more interesting: a look at the life force that surges through us even as we may feel we’re getting pulled under. Or, as she confesses in “Where Did I Leave That Fire, “I wanted to badly not to be me.”
The album’s most arresting track is “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” an a capella song that recounts Case seeing a mother yell at her child at a bus stop. Case not only wants to tell the child that she loves him/her (the child’s gender is never revealed), but that she witnessed the horror as the child will remember it, it really happened, and to never lose his/her voice. Given Case’s own very troubled relationship with her parents, it’s easy to imagine that she’s wishing someone had done that for her. (Parents come up again in opening track “Wild Creatures,” as she laments “There’s no mother’s hands to quiet me.”)
There’s an aloneness, and in many ways, a sense of isolation, that pervades the album, making the lone cover here, Nico’s “Afraid,” a perfect fit. Case’s take on the tune is spare and haunting. “You’re beautiful and you’re alone,” Case sings as if it’s a haunting curse, as she finds herself in her 40s and single and childless.
Despite its “every woman is an island” feel, “The Worse Things Get” is far from a downer of a set (well, at least not totally). First single “Man,” featuring M. Ward is a gender bending propulsive rocker about Case being a woman in a man’s world. Gender roles come up again in “Night Still Comes,” as she asks “Did you poison my food? Is it because I’m a girl? if I puked up some sonnets would me a ‘miracle?,” and on “I’m From Nowhere.”
In addition to M. Ward, Case is joined by a phalanx of like-minded, indie-rock oriented compatriots, including her New Pornographers band mate A.C. Newman, Howe Gelb, members of My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos and Visqueen.
There’s a sense that the darkness is lifting on closing track, “Ragtime” (Case has said that ragtime was the only music that pulled her out of the abyss during her depression). It’s a shaky ground she finds herself on as “The Worse Things Get” comes to its conclusion, but there is the feeling that rock bottom is in her rear view mirror.
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: In one of the most perceptive "nerd movies" ever made, a socially incompetent role playing game master finds himself consumed by jealousy when a charismatic cool kid invades his friend group.Director: Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews
Cast: Sam Eidson, Brock England, Garrett Graham
2010 | Drama | TV-MASummary: Timothy Olyphant is spectacular as a US Maarshall transferred back to his Kentucky home town in this excellent modern western.Director: Graham Yost (creator)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Walton Goggins
2011 | Drama | RSummary: The Cold War comes back to life in this impeccably designed spy story in which disgraced former spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) returns to his old agency to ferret out a mole.Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
2013 | Drama | NRSummary: Alex, blind since the age of two, dreams of running for his school's cross-country team. His father, a probation officer, finds a running partner who spends his time 'running' from the law.Director: Allan Harmon
Cast: Richard Harmon, Jaren Brandt Bartlett, Craig Bierko, Jill Hennessy
1947 | Thriller | NRSummary: Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth provide more than enough star power in this dark thriller about a seaman pulled into plots of deceit and murder.Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane
2007 | Comedy | NRSummary: Wacky animated kids’ show about a "catbearrabbit" named Chowder (don’t think too hard about that one), a would-be chef with a big problem: he can’t resist food.Director: C.H. Greenblatt (creator)
Cast: Nicky Jones, Dwight Schultz, John DiMaggio
1990 | Documentary | NRSummary: Paris Is Burning is a 1990 documentary (directeor Jennie Livingston) filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, chronicling the ball culture of New York City and the poor, African American and Latino gay and transgendered community involved in it. Many consider Paris Is Burning to be an invaluable document...Director: Jennie Livingston
Cast: Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija, Willi Ninja, Octavia St. Laurent
1920 | Horror | NRSummary: One of the very first horror flms features a carnival, sleepwalking, an insane asylum, and some of the most incredible black and white sights in movies.Director: Robert Weine
Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover
1995 | Drama | PG-13Summary: Clueless follows the misadventures of meddlesome Beverly Hills high schooler Cher, who gets more than she bargained for when she gives a fashion-challenged student a makeover.Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
Let Streaming Genie help you.