Last week I went to see a "Living Room Show" by Richard Buckner. The last time prior to that (other than seeing some bands perform at Westlake Mall during Occupy Seattle) I had seen some live music was when Neko Case performed at the Paramount Theater in support of her Middle Cyclone (2009) album.
What I remember about that show is that Neko Case's drummer used brushes a lot; that, and there were a lot of women in attendance; all kinds, shapes and sizes. But it was apparent that the one thing that the women had in common was that they wore the pants. There were a lot of dykes, but straight couples were the majority. The male of the pair, I noted, seemed to fill what has in the past been termed the "traditional" (but which is now considered anachronistic) feminine role -- soft, demure and second-in-command. Somehow the observer managed to exclude himself from his observation. I probably should not have.
This is life at the millennium. As the Western world has de-industrialized according to its neoliberal orthodoxy service work has become the main engine of employment. Women are more heavily represented than men in this sector of the economy. While it is still a man's world at the top of the pyramid, at the pyramid's base it most definitely is not; here, it is a woman's world.
Like Richard Buckner, Neko Case released a new album last September, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. It is a strong record, just as good and maybe better than the commercially successful Middle Cyclone. There are several dynamite tracks. At the top of the post I have included two of them, "Night Still Comes" and "Ragtime."
Neko Case is a product of the Pacific Northwest. She spent her formative years in Tacoma and Vancouver, B.C., where she earned a BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Case is tattooed with the title of the Emily Carr painting Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky:
Being motherless and fatherless is a big theme in Case's work. She left home at 15 and apparently remained estranged from her parents until they passed away recently.
Case is at root a Punk. She got her start in music drumming in Punk bands. Now she comes off more as a Hippie, which is fine by me. Her songs muse about animals and Mother Earth. Case is an example of how a current avatar of the avant-garde is a Hippie-Punk hybrid. You get the hard-edge of the Punk without the clownish ostentation; you get the superior metaphysics of the Hippie without the starry-eyed phoniness.
My favorite Neko Case records are the ones she made before she started to realize some commercial success with Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006), and those are Furnace Room Lullaby (2000) and Blacklisted (2002). Here one can listen to what was the breeding ground of Neko Case's current mature Hippie-Punk hybridization -- the rockabilly ferment of the Bush v. Gore millennium.
By the middle to late 1990s and into "the aughts" the rockabilly guy -- steel-toed boots and motorcycle wallet chain -- with his Bettie Page gal are the new Hippies, the new Punks. Constituents of an urban bohemia, these are our artists, our craftsmen, our chefs and waitresses. People who work and suffer and try to find time to pursue creative endeavors, to do something that means something. This is what Neko Case's Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted are all about.
At the millennium, we have no future other than the future of more war and less material security. We are forlorn and disposable. We have to find the hope -- hope is the anchor -- and the focus to keep struggling to do better and be better.