by Theresa Kulbaga
“God is not a contract or a guy,” declares Neko Case on her brand-new single, the title track from her new album, Hell-On, due to be released June 1. “God is a lusty tire fire.”
The cover of Neko Case’s new album, Hell-On, features the singer-songwriter with a cigarette crown and hair ablaze.
The new album is preoccupied with fire and all it represents: not only lust but also power and powerlessness, destruction and rebirth, and the pure mercilessness of the natural world. Case’s Vermont home burned to the ground last year. In the fire’s wake, she lost her refuge as well as her privacy, and she had to reckon with the loss of control and sense of chaos that accompany so-called acts of God. But in an interview with The New York Times, Case finds solace in these acts of nature: “When nature does things in that way, it doesn’t even see us,” she said. “It’s not God. It’s not this thing that wishes us harm. I find it so comforting.”
In “Hell-On,” Case likens the fiery fury of the natural world to her voice, and by extension to the woman artist: “I’m an agent of the natural world / Don’t you tell me I didn’t warn you.” She mixes xylophone, guitar, drums, and strings that swell into a lusty confabulation, then a hush as she quietly sings:
And me, I am not a mess
I am a wilderness, yes
An undiscovered continent for you to undress
But you’ll not be my master
You’re barely my guest
You don’t have permission to take any pictures
Be careful of the natural world
Neko Case is at her fiery feminist best on “Hell-On,” due out June 1st.
I’ve been a fan of Neko Case for years (both as a solo artist and with The New Pornographers and case / lang / veirs, her recent collaboration with K.D. Lang and Laura Veirs). For me, there’s something powerful in following her career and the careers of other brilliant women artists who continue making music as they get older. In “Hell-On,” Case (age 47) is at her fiery feminist best.
Don’t you tell me I didn’t warn you.
Here’s a teaser of the song: