The Bollocks! Summer of Badass Women: Neko Case

Hopefully you understand that there are many ways to define a badass woman. Some are badass because they use their formidable voices to sing soulful songs and fight for civil rights. Others are badass because they have relentlessly brought the true spirit of folk music to a generation of feminists. This isn’t some kind of spectrum and there are no hard and fast criteria by which we here at Bollocks! confer Official Badassitude upon a woman. Or anyone else, for that matter; we’re not trying to be condescending here. We simply know a total badass when we see one.

And if you’ve seen the cover of Neko Case’s goddamn brilliant Middle Cyclone, you have certainly seen a Badass Woman. She’s riding on a… a sports car (I think it’s a GTO but, as I hinted in my original review of that album, I know exactly fuckall about cars)… well, that’s not really accurate. As you can plainly see, she’s surfing on the hood of a (possibly) GTO with a goddamn sword in her hand. That’s probably my favorite album cover of the last ten years. And that’s just the tip of Neko Case’s iceberg of badassery.

I could go into Case’s biographical what-nots and et ceteras, but her website does a way better (and more hilarious) job of it than I could. I get the feeling that Neko Case and I had somewhat similar childhoods, which is not to say that having it rough when you’re young automatically qualifies you as a badass (I do not, for instance, claim the title of Badass for myself. I’m not even a wiseass; if I’m lucky, I am a smartass though my wife sometimes tells me I have a nice ass), but coming through adversity with grace certainly puts you on the road to Badasstown.

For starters, Neko Case is so badass that she is an integral part of not one but two superb musical ventures. As a solo artist, she has been releasing quality country-ish rock (although at this point, I feel much better considering Neko Case her own genre) since the late 1990s. But she’s also been part of the totally awesome New Pornographers (yes, it’s my goal to link to the “Moves” video more than any other blog ever for the rest of all time. Why? Because the song is fucking awesome and the video is – if possible – even more awesome) since 2000, singing on some of their finest tunes, including last year’s excellent “My Shepherd.” So Ms. Case gets a pretty perfect score for work ethic, which is important – if we did have some sort of strict rubric for determining whether or not someone is a badass, work ethic would count for a hefty amount of the overall grade.

But Neko Case’s strongest asset, in general as well as when it comes to being a badass, is her voice. If I’ve said it a million times, I have not said it enough: there is no one singing right now – man, woman, or child – who sings like Neko Case does. In “Sounds of Sinners,” Joe Strummer sang about looking “for that great jazz note/ that destroyed/ the walls of Jericho.” Well, Neko Case sings that note on every fucking song she sings. She doesn’t have to let loose some nineteen octave-spanning, vibrato filled flurry of notes like Mariah Carey – Case has devastating tone and a control of it that could, if she wished, be used to reduce every once and future VH1 Diva to a pile of ash.

I mentioned earlier that I basically consider Neko Case her own genre, and that’s another point in her favor. Like Tom Waits, Case seamlessly blends elements of folk, country, rock, gospel and blues into her own eerie, beautiful (and yes, badass) music. Music’s been around for a long time and they are badass indeed who can weave humanity’s long musical history into a tapestry of sonic splendor. Should Mr. Waits and Ms. Case ever tour together, I would travel to the fucking moon and back to see it. Then I would die of happiness and instantly attain enlightenment.

Though Case’s early albums feature quite a few (excellent) covers, she has emerged as a powerful songwriter as well. Examples? Let’s take a few from Middle Cyclone, since I’m listening to it right now. There’s the simple, direct logic of “The Next Time You Say Forever,” in which Case sings, “The next time you say forever/ I will punch you in your face/ just because you don’t believe it/ doesn’t mean I didn’t mean it.” Then we have “I’m an Animal,” in which Neko is sure that “Heaven will smell like the airport/ but I may never get there to prove it.” I could go on, but you should just get the album and listen for yourself.

Another common theme among our badass women is some kind of community service and/or impact beyond mere musical magnificence (I never met an alliteration I didn’t like), though – again – it’s not required or anything. In Case’s… uh… case, she advocates very actively on behalf of animals, especially greyhounds. Case makes use of Twitter to spread the word about donation opportunities (like this one for the Best Friends Animal Society’s birthday donation drive. They’re only asking for $27 by July 25th, so make a donation if you can, eh?) and will usually give your cause a solid re-Tweeting if it’s worthy. Even if you don’t donate to the Best Friends Animal Society (you should though. I mean, they’re asking for a maximum of $27 and if you can’t do that, you can pick your own amount. I’m poor as hell and I could spare ten bucks for ’em. What say you?), you might find Neko Case worth following on the Twitters. She’s frequently hilarious and also turned me (and, you know, probably lots of other people) on to GOOD, which is an infinitely awesome internet news magazine-type thing. Put it this way – the Daily GOOD is the only daily email I get from any company that isn’t deleted right away. Because they tell me about great shit like interstate bike paths and states finally banning styrofoam.

What more do you need to know? Her last two albums, the aforementioned Middle Cyclone and 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood are two of the best albums of this young century (you can bet your ass they’ll still be among its best when this century is in its late 90s too, when my great grandkids have taken over Bollocks! and turned it into a blog about their crazy Great Gramps, who would sit in his rocking chair shouting about the Hold Steady and Finnegans Wake until Gram brought him his medicine, which seemed to always come in twenty-two ounce bottles) and her albums before those, both solo and with the New Pornographers, are – at worst – pretty rad. So: because she can sing better than your ten favorite singers stacked on top of each other, because she does good stuff for awesome animals, and because Middle Cyclone still sends shivers in every possible direction along my spine, I declare for all to witness that Neko Case is a badass and no summer of Badass Women is complete without her.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Bollocks! Summer of Badass Women: Neko Case

  1. Pingback: Highway Music « Bollocks!

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  3. Pingback: Fuck Violence. Listen to the Mynabirds « Bollocks!

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