If we’re to believe the star-studded action/thriller Twister (“Finger of God!”), tornados are at least semi-predictable. In that sense, Middle Cyclone makes a whole lotta sense for Neko Case.
Appearing: Friday, April 25th at Chicago Theatre in Chicago.
Whatever she was going for on 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, she nailed it. Her previous studio album, Blacklisted (Bloodshot), had characteristics that would bear fruit on its successor, but was afflicted by paeans to her influences (most notably a haunting reverb) that popped up like a bop-it game. Fox Confessor, however, despite its unwieldy impetus (Russian folk tales) and other oblique origins (“Star Witness” was about a murder in Humboldt Park), masterfully married her hardened folk sensibilities and desires to let fly as a country superstar.
Middle Cyclone takes a next step, though it’s not necessarily the right one. Far from a disappointment (you need to go back to her debut to find that), the album nonetheless feels distant, and not in an aloof, cagey way, but absent or elevated. The ambience is airy and frequently groundless, so much that the dry title track stands out for its simplicity. Case’s pop sensibilities continue their awakening (thankfully separate from the New Pornographers), and could potentially deliver a hit with “People Got A Lotta Nerve.” But too often Middle Cyclone’s aesthetics prove too much of an obstacle. When she does punch through the mix, it’s in the order of the uncharacteristic outburst near the end of opener “This Tornado Loves You.”
– Steve Forstneger
Click here to download “People Got A Lotta Nerve.”
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