Neko Case

Middle Cyclone

Anti-

Mar 19, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Middle Cyclone comes off like a decent art house film that demands as much appreciation as it does affect once-is-enough sentiment. Neko Case is as cryptic as ever, but then straight-forward like never before. As with its predecessor, references to nature abound. Among the standout tracks and few ho-hummers is enough good poetry to overshadow that which is overwrought, and enough personification to light a small town.

     On the opener (“This Tornado Loves You”), Case’s talent manifests itself beautifully, a foreboding score, frightening imagery (“Broken necks will line the ditch”) and the singer’s booming and surefire voice depict one of the more unique and terrifying characters you’re likely to come across in music. On the quietly dramatic numbers, “Vengeance Is Sleeping” and the title track, she paints vivid and moving portraits of spite and regret, pride and longing, respectively. Her Sparks cover (“Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth”) and the rousing “I’m an Animal” suggest excellent companion pieces, if not possible theme songs for National Geographic’s I Should Be Dead, both seemingly borne out of bad camping trips, but not likely.

     When the music and melodies don’t live up to the content, however, Case’s signature vocal moves can seem showy, even pointless (“The Pharaohs”)—likewise when the words seem borderline insufferable (“Magpie to the Morning”). “People Got a Lotta Nerve” is admirable in taking a less-interesting-than-you-think angle on animals in captivity, but comes off light, musically.

     Middle Cyclone ends on a curious note, too, shortly after a good reading of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me,” with the lingering words of “Red Tide” (“I want to go back and die at the drive-in/Die before strangers can say/‘I hate the rain’”). Is Case alluding to an impending climate shift, and suggesting she’d like to die while the going’s good before mankind’s mistakes spell certain doom? If she is, she scores by being rather funny and anti-soapbox (considering drive-ins need cars). If not, score one for crypticism. (www.nekocase.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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