Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Neko Case agitates for animal rights—and gives away free song

Anti- is putting its money where Neko Case’s mouth is. And after her latest album sold a whopping 200,000 copies, they probably owe it to her.

Last month, the label mounted a fundraising drive for Best Friends Animal Society, pledging to donate $5 each time a blogger posted a link to the single from her forthcoming album, Middle Cyclone. Looks like I missed the boat on this one (the promotion ended on Feb. 3), but I can still offer you a free download of the tune, “People Got a Lotta Nerve.” And while I’m at it I’ll help Case plug her cause (check out the video above).

Case’s new, 15-track album is due out March 3, and if the single is any indication it will prove a very logical next step in her career. The animal-rights anthem “People Got a Lotta Nerve” shows off her signature, slick but beefy guitar sound – electric, slide, and acoustic all pitch in – and her vocals are as whirling and dynamic as her head of bright-red hair—or (forgive me) a cyclone.

One listen to either of her last two albums is indication enough of Case’s passion for animal rights. Titled The Tigers Have Spoken and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, respectively, these records are replete with zoomorphic imagery and Case’s perfected blend of mysticism and naturalism.

What this fey concoction boils down to is stirringly existential and emotionally accessible. When Case sings about animals, her voice’s stern force and intermittent vulnerability make us see ourselves in the characters. Tigers’ title track, a condemnation of the practice of keeping animals in captivity, is especially arresting because if you take a few lines out it could pertain to the human condition. “In a field behind the cages / He walked in circles ’til he was crazy / And he lived that way forever / Just as long as he could remember / If he’d wanted to remember.”

To flop into the psychiatrist’s chair for a minute, Case’s personal history might account somewhat for her commiseration with subjugated animals—more specifically, her affinity for helping abandoned ones. After a childhood of splitting time between her divorced mother and father, both of whom she has described as ill prepared for parenthood, she lit off on her own at 15 for a drifting adolescence of drug use and playing in punk bands. But no matter what's behind it, this new album is sure to be worth our attention.

  • NPR recorded an hour-and-a-half-long Neko Case concert on April 9, 2006 at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club. Click here to play the concert with a Real Media player, or click here to play it with a Windows Media player.

There will be no "Look Both Ways" installment this week; the newspaper that usually publishes it as a column at the beginning of each week did not print on Monday.

1 comment:

  1. Heard this interview with Neko Case on NPR a few mornings ago...the part about the barnful of pianos is pretty incredible.