First thing, this is an honor. I’m reviewing a piece of music written by my favorite contemporary composer – who happens to be a woman. That looks like such a pretentious bourgeoisie philanthropist cocktail party line. I know that, and I’m sorry… we cool? Hope so, because both true, both valid, both important, and both strong and commanding enough to warrant paying tribute to. So anyway, second thing:

#hellyeahfeministmusic

Neko Case Hell On ReviewAnd hell yeah, Neko Case – who by the way, defies categorization, pigeon holing, and can we stop treating people like they’re less important than some lighter skinned people, and (what the holy fuck) people who have penises? So yeah, the categorization thing sucks, and the world would be a real wonderful place if we could just say “folks is folks” – however until people stop treating people horribly because of some group affiliation, nope. Can’t do it… so again I say hell YEAH feminist music. So can I talk about it? 

HELL YEAH… hello Neko 

 

Some time around 2006 or thereabouts, iTunes music told me that I like Neko Case – and just like it always boils down to an apple and a broad to get a person to wake up and strive to be woke, I sure as hell DID. But as they say, just because one has woken up doesn’t simply mean that one is woke. Or something. Maybe… I don’t know. Whatever – I don’t know that one can ever even BE completely woke, but I’m still trying.

We still cool? Great.

WELL THEN SON OF ADAM, PARTAKE OF THIS GIFT AND PREPARE TO BE WOKE

or something… just try.

Neko Case Adam and Eve

Hell-On is, as are any of Case’s previous releases, practically entirely stylistically different from its predecessors – it sounds, as did the four previous studio recordings, like Case has both grown better as a musician, and retained the ability to reflect upon previous works as their best representations as originally presented – the albums flow in consistency with the surface aesthetic of each song in its entirety, but I could easily throw “John Saw That Number” (from Fox Confessor) on  this album and have it make sense. Different styles, tone, colors, et al., yet each of Case’s songs a fortress unto itself… hence I say, “compositions.”

So I’m comparing this beautifully recorded (“John Saw That Number”) natural acoustic, and probably even much of the reverb I’m guessing (?) vocal performance (and unexpected gospel-styled number) to the slicker sounding and pop music accessible (in only the coolest ways) “Bad Luck.”

“Bad Luck.” 

 

That’s a GREAT song that’s not overly reminiscent of any other material of hers I can think of, and yet it’s not saying “this is my new sound” or whatever; it’s simply “this is how this song sounds.” Or something. Maybe… I don’t know. Whatever – It’s a fucking great song and I love it. Seeing how well received the song was as one of the pre-release teasers from Hell-On, everyone else was blown away as well. 

Neko Case 2018

Not to say “defies genre” or whatever… this is the music of Neko Case.

That’s an entire category unto itself. Anyway, within each of these big umbrellas of sameness people put up, there’s differences, progressions, and new communications to be discovered by, in this case – its listeners. Kinda new thing to me at least in Hell-On are these lush, ethereal tones – and instruments themselves in some cases that throw this sort of “retro, only better applied than was whenever it wasn’t retro” component into the mix.

Example: I remember thinking of the groovy little synth parts from “Madonna of the Wasps” (from The Harder I Fight […] – also a fucking bomb ass song IMHO) and wondering if Case had used or would be using that more later – I’m also wondering if this thing I’m hearing at the beginning of “Pitch or Honey” is the same instrument. It’s a nice addition whatever the case.

This song is a great rubric for highlighting the excellent production of Hell-On – I find it easy to lose myself in its ambience and space out picking out nuances. If this song was released in the nineties everyone would be thinking it was produced and engineered by Flood.

That’s a compliment. IDGAF how mainstream the dude got, Flood was always great. My cred remains intact. 

”Pitch or Honey”

 

Anyway, speaking of retro tones done way better, “My Uncle’s Navy” really shows off this beautiful reverb, chorus* and tremolo-laden guitar sound reminiscent of Geordie Walker from Killing Joke that seems to be making me smile or whatever when I hear it kick in – and THAT is also a compliment. Fucking love Geordie Walker. Dude inspired my own humble guitaring efforts. 

*Small Clone chorus, “I’m a guitar geek” presuming… like in that Nirvana song….

Neko Case Guitar Effect Hell On

(And that joke is KILLING IT with like, ohh maybe two people right now. Whatever. Song ROCKS.)

 

God I fucking love this record. And I’ve saved the best track for last: “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” is the icing on the Neko Case versatility Neko Cake. Madam, you have reached the pinnacle of just fucking phenomenal songwriting that so very many late 20th century so-called “composers” have strived for and missed repeatedly – the duet… as accompanied by the always utterly fucking amazeballs awesome (Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan Band, and the esoterically goddamn beautiful music of Gutter Twins… Adorata rules, dude!!) Mark Lanegan.

Neko Case Mark Lanegan DuetAnd it really is a fucking phenomenal duet.  This is Broadway – fuck… this is fucking Muppet Show level stuff here, people…

And anyone who knows me also knows the muppet thing is the highest and holiest Seraphim flying around your head going HOLY, HOLY, HOLY FUCK-KING SHIT YOU ARE A GOD holy compliment.

Fuuuck, what an amazing song that is.

I’m dead serious about the “classic duet” thing, too… toldja she’s versatile. And yeah, the entire foundation of my tastes in music was formed watching the Muppets.

This would of course need to be a duet with Gonzo the Great… and of course hell yeah, shot out of a cannon. Nothing but the best.

After soaking in “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” I’d originally intended to interview Case, but instead I got something WAY better… 

WAY: I wrote a brief ‘holy shit’ review of the song with following addendum/correction in a Twitter thread discussion of the single release, and got two groovy little heart-likes from Neko Case – so it’s like I did a man/woman 1970s style exchange duet with Neko Case’s heart-like parts as short responses… 

 

So it’s like I’m like, ”Don’t go breakin’ my heart Neko Case…” and Neko Case goes, ”I couldn’t if I tried.”

And she couldn’t – she’s never let me down as an artist in twelve years at the top of my iTunes playlists. This record (sorry, download… I’m still trying with the “woke” thing) joins the highest ranks of Middle Cyclone, The Harder I Try […], and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood – that which took the esteemed title of “my wicked favoritest album evah” from Let it Bleed, which had been my number one since I was thirteen.

Let it Bleed… no shit. Them’s bragging rights, right there Miss… Ms… MAESTRO CASE.

My hat goes off, and this song goes out… to YOU.

 

BA Psychology and BA Philosophy. Fairly useless degrees, but my education has bettered my ability to analyze people’s behaviors and describe them in flowery metaphors.

I play the banjo too. Maybe I just like being annoying.