“People Got a Lotta Nerve” – Neko Case

The mighty Neko Case is back with a soon-to-be-released album and an initial song that took a while to sneak up on me, as it were. To be sure, her voice is as spellbinding as ever, with that rich lower register, that clarion upper register. And this one does have an immediate, breezy-jangly appeal. I just wasn’t sure about the song itself. I kept hearing the chorus, with its simple-sounding, repetitive core, and was too distracted to listen to what was actually going on.

The words were the first to penetrate. Over what may sound like a throwaway melodic line, she sings “I’m a man-man-man, man-man-maneater/But still you’re suprised-prised-prised when I eat you.” It turns out this is a bouncy, casual, humorous-seeming way of nailing a painful and complicated interpersonal tendency among us humans that would take me a full paragraph to explicate (I don’t have the room; I’ll leave it to you to ponder.) And then, the music: the way the second series of repetitions, on “surprised,” lag at half-rate, and behind the beat, helps deliver the complex, wistful payoff far better than the words alone would. Eventually, too, I noticed she has two different melodies for the two verses, which feels curious and elusive. You keep needing to go back and listen again. Don’t miss, also, that rueful seven-note run on the guitar before the second verse starts (beginning at 0:56), a C-sharp scale that comes up one note short, leaving us on the most unresolved C note possible (in this difficult scale it’s considered a B-sharp, to be precise). She uses this same pattern for the song’s cryptic coda, as she sings: “It will end again in bullets fired,” which strikes me as an allusion to Chekhov’s famous theatrical principle.

So there’s a little more here than meets the eye. And, “People Got a Lotta Nerve” comes with a nifty promotional gimmick to boot. For every blog that posts this song, Case and her record label, Anti, will donate $5 to the Best Friends Animal Society. Today is in fact the last day the promotion is in effect, so I’m in under the wire. Phew. The new CD, Middle Cyclone, is due out in early March. (There’s a nice video on the making of the album, worth watching, here.) MP3 via Spinner.




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