The four years between 2009’s “Middle Cyclone and The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” (whew!) was a difficult time for Neko Case. She lost several relatives, which sent her into a downward spiral. Fortunately, she was able to pick herself up and create something inspired by that dark period of her life, and we are able to once again hear her beautiful voice that pierces through the atmosphere.
She also recruited the help of several musicians; one of them being M. Ward whose fantastic guitar work is featured on the album. His distinct style is certainly noticeable on the track “Man.” The angry driving force of “Man” is something to behold with Case’s powerful voice that manages to maintain its grace.
In fact, Case’s “grace” increased tenfold for me when she sings to us “I am the man in the f***ing moon,” even if one would suspect that it would have the opposite effect. However, I do think the use of profanity in the track “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is somewhat sloppy, and I feel the song is perhaps the weakest on the album. The track “Night Still Comes is right before Man”; a melancholy, catchy tune that makes for a nice contrast.
Nine tracks into “The Worse Things Get…” and I certainly began to feel the potential of a filler track coming up. That feeling was completely wrong, because Case put a cover Nico’s “Afraid” there instead. The cover puts a building of tension throughout the album to a halt, and puts you on pause and into a quiet mood. Then, the tension that was welling up is released through “Local Girl” and its chorus. The next track “Where Did I Leave That Fire” provides a touch of abstract to the album. Another notable track is “City Swans”, which brings me back to the old Neko Case where she quickens her voice in her signature fashion.
Case’s past albums, while excellent, had become rather stale sounding to me. “The Worse Things Get…” has certainly refreshed the sound of Neko Case.