Album Review: “The Worse Things Get…” by Neko Case

Singer-songwriter Neko Case’s latest album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, the More I Love You is a study in contradictions.

Above all, Neko Case is a storyteller, masterfully weaving fact and fiction–so much so that at times it’s hard to separate the two. Not to be pigeonholed, Case takes on many different roles throughout the album; at times she’s a witness, a murderer and a man. Her lyrics range from topics such as parental abuse, gender fluidity and female empowerment.

In short, The Worse Things Get… is nothing if not dynamic.

A perfect example of this variety is the opening track “Wild Creatures.” Case inquires, “Hey little girl, would you like to be the king’s pet or the king?” She then answers with, “I’d choose odorless and invisible / but otherwise, I would choose the king / Even though it sounds the loneliest / And my brother’s hands would poison me.” This revealing conversation sets the tone for an album full of unapologetic anthems.

One of these is “Man,” where Case’s brassy vocals mixed with searing guitars make up a song whose core message seems to be “I’m not going to change for anybody. Deal with it.”

Lyrics like “If I’m dipsh*t drunk on pink perfume / I am the man in the f*cking moon, / ‘Cause you didn’t know what a man was / Until I showed you,” are as unrepentant as it gets. It’s clear that Case is here to grab people’s attention.

Another standout is “Nearly Midnight in Honolulu,” an acoustic masterpiece, where Case’s vocals truly shine. With haunting clarity and rawness, Case bears witness to a series of abuses, commenting “I just want to say that it happened, / Because one day when you ask yourself, / Did it really happen? / You won’t believe it, / But yes, it did.” This heartbreaking track breathes life and compassion into an album full of Case’s typically detached style.

The Worse Things Get… is full of surprises. From sweet ballads and acoustic storytelling to brassy anthems, Neko Case’s talent is clearly not limited to any one style. Her expert lyricism shines through an album comprised of poignant conversations and empowering statements. It’s clear this artist has a lot to say and is determined to be heard. My advice? Listen.

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