Despite having an extremely long name, Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You preaches a simple and enduring message: despite the situation people may be going through, there is an ability to come out of it stronger and better than before. When compared with Case’s prior albums, The Worse Things Get holds and emphasizes a strong theme which is pervasive throughout the album. While a detailed guide to the whole album with a song by song walk-through would be thorough, to understand the meaning and power of the album, there are a few songs worth focusing on over others.
The theme of the album is most apparent with a side by side comparison of the songs Nearly Midnight, Honolulu, and the closing track, Ragtime. Where Nearly Midnight, Honolulu is full of spite for the past conveyed through a melodic short story of a kid and his mother, Ragtime has a jovial spirit geared towards making the best of what would otherwise be a glum night. By placing a tragic childhood element near the beginning of the album and letting the feel of the album progress towards a much more enduring message of hope at the end, Neko Case shows not only her talent in songwriting, but also in album layout, which frankly is something that is lacking in many modern albums.
In terms of actual performance, The Worse Things Get shows a strong progression in skill, as each song holds to Case’s indie/country style in a way which may even bring the most ardent anti-country music enthusiast to a minor identity crisis. Case’s slight drawly cadence is powerful, regardless of the topic of the song. From singing about her opinion on gender views in Man to the almost nursery rhyme delicateness of Afraid, Case proves herself to be more than versatile.
The emotion present in many of the songs delivers an album full of individual songs that can work on their own in a diverse set of environments or can come together strongly. For example, Local Girl echoes a desolate and lonely night drinking alone in a bar. On the other half of the album, Bracing For Sunday may as well be the soundtrack to a wild montage in an indie flick about two young lovers falling in love and having the time of their lives. On top of all of this, to hit on a point made earlier, the final song, Ragtime leaves the listener content with what should prove to be a memorable overall experience.
As a side note, while most deluxe albums are as useless and meaningless as a spoiler on a Subaru Outback, the deluxe version of The Worse Things Get introduces three songs that have absurdly awesome names and decent music quality. Madonna of the Wasps, Magpie to the Morning, and Yon Ferrets Return are much more similar to the prior work of Neko Case. While they may not fit in with the feel of the album, on their own they are memorable. For those that haven’t listened to the work of Neko Case, the actual album is probably the better buy, but for current fans, the deluxe album should be considered. A well organized and performed album is a gem worth finding and not worth ignoring.