Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Neko Case

August ’07 – Neko Case’s albums are my favourite sing-along albums at the moment. I put her on when there is no one else in the house and sing along with all my heart, approximating the vowel sounds when I don’t know the words. I often don’t know the words. Sometimes there will be a single line that hits me – “I leave the party at 3am, all alone, thank god” or “In the end I was the mean girl, or somebody’s in-between girl” or “The most tender place in my heart is for strangers” – but the overall concept of each song generally eludes me. Sometimes I even fear she can be waffly. But the singing is amazing, with melodies flying off in all directions, and the performance is so uninhibited and hot-blooded, or sometimes scarily cold-blooded, that I can only love her music. But I have found a song (on the live album ‘The Tigers Have Spoken’) that is perfectly crafted…taking into account that perfectly crafted includes a few humanising blemishes and flaws. I told one of my brothers that he should download it. I watched over his shoulder as he typed in the song title; he typed “hecs”. I said, “No, the other sort – ‘hex.’” Danny (currently a student) said, “She’s obviously not Austalian.”

There is an impotent evil about a curse song; an evil that is born out of nothing more than scraps – unanswered phone calls, dates that fell through, words that turned out to be meaningless, love that was unvalued after the object got past the initial, thrilling ego-boost. The curse song is tiny fists pounding against the vast, nerveless back of someone who has simply, and finally, turned away. Neko sings, “You hear me calling your name out at night, do you run to your window thinking a coyote might be howling?” and, later, “When the stars in the sky begin to fade, do you tell yourself ‘Don’t be afraid, it’s just the night that’s dying’?” I have always believed that when you put a curse on someone, you run the risk of the toxic poison of the curse splashing back onto you. At the time, of course, you are prepared to take that risk, sure that it is impossible for you to feel any worse (or better) than you do. Later, you come to regret it. “You took my heart, cast it aside, laughed when I cried – like it was just no big deal! And here, all alone in the dark, I know just how you feel.” That last line is my favourite, for its double-edge. Has he been dragged down to her level of suffering, or has she been reduced to his level of baseness? - the curse of the curser, the heartlessness of cursing someone to heartlessness.