Posts Tagged ‘Tacoma’

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The Sonics were an American garage rock band from Tacoma, Washington that formed in 1960  by teen-aged guitarist Larry Parypa, with the encouragement of his music-loving parents. The earliest lineup included Parypa, drummer Mitch Jaber, and guitarist Stuart Turner; Parypa’s brother Jerry briefly played saxophone, and their mother occasionally filled in on bass at rehearsals. In 1961, Parypa’s older brother Andy became the bass player, and Tony Mabin took over as their new saxophone player.Their aggressive, hard-edged sound has been a major influence on punk and garage music worldwide, and they have been named as inspirations to Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen, the Fall, and other major artists. Rich Koch (who had previously played with the Wailers) joined as lead guitarist, and Marilyn Lodge became their first singer, the band having been an instrumental combo up to that point. A new drummer, Bill Dean, replaced Jaber. Koch and Lodge left the band in 1963. Local star Ray Michelsen became the band’s singer after having sung with several other popular bands on the local scene. Larry began looking for a drummer to replace Dean, who he felt was uncommitted to the band, and found Bob Bennett playing in a band called the Searchers, with keyboardist Gerry Roslie and sax player Rob Lind. Ray Michelsen was looking to leave the band, so the Parypas hired Bennett, Roslie, and Lind, and let their previous saxophonist Mabin go. The well-known lineup was in place, but the Sonics’ career did not begin in earnest until 1964, when Gerry Roslie started singing lead vocals. With Roslie as lead singer, the band started playing gigs

The Sonics are often-cited contenders for the title of “the first punk band,” due to their wild and ground-breaking style. The band also have a clearly marked influence on American punk bands such as the Cramps and the Dead Boys in their brash, menacing style and attitude, and on 1980s grunge bands (who originated in the same area), especially Mudhoney, who adopted some of the darker themes from Sonics music, and a lot of their techniques on over-driving and distorting electric guitars. Their reach stretched beyond the U.S.; influential Manchester post-punk group The Fall covered “Strychnine” during a session for the late John Peel’s programme in 1993 and they repeatedly performed the song live around this time. As well as all these, there have been whole generations of garage rock revival bands (such as The Thingz) who make no bones of plagiarizing The Sonics and their ilk. The early 21st century saw the arrival of another garage rock band that lists the Sonics as a major influence, Eagles of Death Metal. New Zealand power-punk band Cut Off Your Hands have covered “The Witch” several times in concert.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana said in an interview with Nardwuar the Human Serviette on CITR-FM, discussing drum sounds,”I, I have to admit... The Sonics recorded very, very cheaply on a two track you know, and they just used one microphone over the drums, and they got the most amazing drum sound I’ve ever heard. Still to this day, it’s still my favorite drum sound. It sounds like he’s hitting harder than anyone I’ve ever known.” . The White Stripes named The Sonics as one of the bands that influenced them the most, calling them “the epitome of ’60s punk” and claiming they were “harder than the Kinks, and punk long before punk”

The band performed several early rock standards such as “Louie, Louie”, and “Skinny Minnie” as well as original compositions like “Strychnine”, “Psycho”, and “The Witch”. Their catalogue is generally based around simple chord progressions, often performed with a speed and tonal aggression that was novel for the time, making the band a notable influence on later punk rock bands.

Their first single was “The Witch” (with Little Richard’s “Keep a-Knockin'” as the B-side) in November 1964. The record was immensely popular with local kids, and went on to become the biggest selling local single in the history of the Northwest despite its radio airplay being restricted because of its bizarre subject matter.

Early in 1965 Etiquette released the Sonics‘ debut “Here Are The Sonics”, which was produced at Audio Recording in Seattle, Washington with famed Pacific Northwest recording engineer Kearney Barton. It was recorded on a two-track tape recorder, with only one microphone to pick up the entire drum kit. It was here that they began to pioneer some of their infamously reckless recording techniques. A second album, “Boom”, followed in February 1966. During the recording, the Sonics ripped the soundproofing off the walls at the country and western-oriented Wiley/Griffith studio in Tacoma to “get a live-er sound.” The covers of both albums feature the moody photography of Jini Dellaccio.

Their heyday began to come to a close when the band transferred to Jerden Records in late 1966, and headed to Hollywood to record the poorly selling album “Introducing the Sonics” with Larry Levine at Gold Star Studios. Although it has been rumoured that Jerden executives pushed the Sonics into a more polished sound, the band itself had decided to follow new influences in modern music, resulting in songs that were quite different from their raucously early recordings. The band, however, was not satisfied with the material on Introducing the Sonics, calling the cleaner, slicker recordings “the worst garbage.”

Here Are The Sonics!!

Here Are The Sonics!!

At the time of its release, “Here Are The Sonics” made very little noise of the group’s home state of Washington – but within said home state, the Sonics themselves were making enough noise to blow down every brick wall between Tacoma and Torrance, California. Seldom has a group ever been better named. The youthful aggression in their music, coupled with singer Gerry Roslie’s ‘80 razorblades-a-day’ vocal attack and a selection of overwhelmingly brilliant riffs that underpinned some of the most wildly recorded music ever to be committed to tape, should have made the Sonics one of the biggest groups the world has ever known or heard. Instead they went on to become celebrated by generation after generation of collectors, and other young people with an urge to rock ‘n’ roll.

The overwhelming importance of tracks like “The Witch”, “Psycho” and “Boss Hoss” has provided a template for countless groups who’ve come up in their wake, and who have achieved a level of commercial success that they could never have achieved without the inspiration (direct or spiritual) of the Sonics – fellow Pacific North-Westerners Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana and their successor the Foo Fighters being, perhaps, the most obvious examples.

Here Are The Sonics, exactly as seen and heard 42 years ago on its original Etiquette pressing – albeit in a smaller-sized package, of course! Its tingling mix of group originals and sonic – in every sense of the word! – shreddings of Hall Of Fame rock’n’roll classics (including their recently-used-in-a-car-ad decimation of Richard Berry’s Have Love, Will Travel) remains the musical equivalent of sticking your finger in a live light bulb socket for 25 minutes. Its contents, like all good rock‘n’roll, will never date or die.

"Boom" LP Front


We follow or recent reissue of “Here Are The Sonics!” with a 180g black vinyl replica of “Boom”, the band’s second album. Originally released in 1966 on Etiquette Records in wonderful mono, “Boom” still does much more than merely deliver on the promise of their debut. Few records have ever packed as much of a musical punch from start to finish, offering a representation of what the Sonics must have sounded like at the peak of their powers. Recorded in the most glorious no-fi you could ever wish for, and with anthemic originals such as ‘Cinderella’ and ‘He’s Waitin’’ vying for attention with what is possibly the most violent version of ‘Louie Louie’ there will ever be, “Boom” is an album that has always justified the esteem in which it is held by collectors around the globe. All the modern bumph like barcodes and whatnot is on a disposable sticker, leaving your copy of “Boom” as original as possible.

Now that enough time has elapsed for listeners’ heart rates to come back to normal, we are more than merely pleased to add the Sonics second album – the entirely appropriately entitled “Boom” – to our ever expanding range of Hip Pocket titles.

Most bands down the years have tended to work off much of their initial youthful aggression on their debut album. Come album two, an amount of mellow has likely as not crept into the proceedings, along with an increased musical professionalism. Not so the Sonics. Not content with being able to play in their hometown of Seattle and to be heard in Sacramento without the aid of amplification, they upped the pressure and the volume to an extent where they could probably be heard south of San Diego without the benefit of a prevailing wind.

“Boom” still does much more than merely deliver on the promise of their first Etiquette album, “Here Are The Sonics”. Few records have ever packed as much of a musical punch from start to finish. Even more so than their first album, it offers a representation of what the Sonics must have sounded like ‘in the dance’ at the peak of their considerable powers.

Here it is, issued in its original format for the first time on a UK CD, to make the Hip Pocket series even hipper…



Back in the mid-1960s, the legendary Sonics took rock’n’roll by the scruff of the neck and thrashed it to within an inch of its sorry life, leaving a legacy of some of the most savage, visceral recordings ever made. Compiling their no-holds-barred Etiquette sessions, “Psycho-Sonic” is the ultimate Sonics anthology.
One of the best selling Big Beat releases of recent years has been Psycho-sonic , a comprehensive collection of all the sides the much-feted kings of garage rock recorded for the Etiquette label in 1964/65. Only the most cloistered of music fans would be unaware of the mighty Tacoma combo’s influence and importance, now stronger than ever thanks to young bucks such as the White Stripes, Hives, Vines etc constantly dropping the band’s name. With access to first generation tapes uncovered by Big Beat’s ongoing celebration of the catalogue of Sonics’ mentors, the Wailers, we gave this compilation a spring clean back in 2003, this month we have given the cover a refresh.

Psycho-sonic features many tracks presented in ear-blistering true stereo remixes, taken from the actual tape the band recorded onto, and mastered with Big Beat’s customarily sensitive mastering.
The set’s sequencing and flow deliver an entertaining and invigorating programme from start to finish. Track for track, the first half-hour of this disc is the wildest, most visceral rock’n’roll listen you’re ever likely to have. Also included is an in-depth overview of the group’s career by reissue producer Alec Palao, based on, first-hand interviews with the band and their associates, including the legendary Sonics’ lead singer/ songwriter/ screamer Jerry Roslie. The package also includes a feast of unseen outtakes from the band’s famed photo sessions – photographer Jini Dellaccio granted us full access to her incredible archive of Sonics pictures. Plus the usual memorabilia and label shots.

The original band fell apart between 1966 and 1968, with members leaving to attend university or join other bands; saxophonist Rob Lind became a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. Eventually, all of the original members left, with new members continuing on with the name Sonics (later ‘Jim Brady and the Sonics’) until 1980, although it was a completely different band, at times even incorporating string and horn sections.


Her most notable collaboration was her time spent as a full-time member of The New Pornographers, a band which she still participates in actively to this day, finding time in between writing, recording, and touring behind her six studio albums and multiple live records.

Neko Case also released the box set Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule, a collection of six aforementioned records along with an 2001’s EP, Canadian Amp, and her 2004 live album with The Sadies, The Tigers Have Spoken, notable for its inclusion of Case’s takes on songs not featured on any of her other studio albums.

Throughout Case’s solo discography,It’s one that moves slowly away from her more country-inspired beginnings to her more recent albums, which have positioned her as one of the most acclaimed and respected indie rock artists around.

Part of what makes Case such an intriguing artist is her penchant for storytelling. Early in her career, she was frequently compared to legends like Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, crafting hard-luck tales about people living in America’s heartland, lifting the spirit of country music and delivering it to an audience who often avoided the genre. Case wrote all her songs with a lived-in approach, giving her characters agency and sympathy while mentioning places and cities specific enough to make her tales feel real and relatable. Some were about love and loss, but many were focused on anger, with Case drawing influence from artists like The Louvin Brothers to put together her own versions of murder ballads. Case has also been an outspoken and humorous artist, be it during her banter between songs at concerts or through her clever wit fully on display throughout her work. She habitually subverts gender norms and stereotypes about sexuality, always writing songs and forging her path forward on her own terms.

While Case’s music has shifted gradually and notably over the past 15 years, part of what makes her discography so inviting is how consistent it is in terms of the quality. She challenges conventional thinking in her songs, the artists she draws inspiration from, and the friends she works with.



“South Tacoma Way”: Of all her records, The Virginian isn’t steeped too deeply in any specific locale. Of the original compositions, the title track is the only one that references an actual place, and the song itself focuses more on a girl who fell away from the lord and was “free to do what she wanted” as she didn’t ask god to take her back into his graces when she died. For the covers, Case’s take on the Everly Brothers’ “Bowling Green” would be the first of many times she would use specific places in the west or Midwest to set her stories.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline”: “Karoline” is the only character who gets named on The Virginian, the “wild and unashamed” cowgirl who draws Case’s desire. Beyond that, much of the album is from a first-person perspective, whether it’s trying to scare away the “Honky Tonk Hiccups” or dealing with heartbreak on “Thanks a Lot”.

“I’m a Man”: On “Karoline”, originally written and recorded with her former band Maow, Case takes a traditional country melody about pursuing a partner for the night, but switches things up. The narrator wants to be the titular Karoline’s “slave” for the night, and while it initially seems an instance of Case taking on the male role in the story, the line “Cowgirl I’ve got that loving that puts all those men to shame” makes the song seem like an excellent gay country jam.

“Deep Red Bells”: The Virginian isn’t notably violent compared to Case’s other records but does feature its fair share of tragedy. “Lonely Old Lies” finds Case trying to drown her sorrows with “Moon River”, and “Jettison” finds her pleading with the “Sandman” to take her “much further than sleep.” The most combative character here is the character in “The Virginian”, who continues to defy God after death.

“Whip the Blankets”: Case’s first album features some of the more eclectic cover choices of her career, showing how she can fit songs by seemingly disparate artists into her own style. The record sees Case taking on traditional country tunes like Loretta Lynn’s  “Somebody Led Me Away” as well as ’60s pop through her takes on The Everly Brothers’ “Bowling Green” and Scott Walker’s “Duchess”, finishing up with her version of Queen’s “Misfire”. None sound out of place on the record, and while her take on the Walker track may be a highlight, each shows Case apt at reinterpreting songs from different genres.

Her Boyfriends: The Virginian was effectively Case’s first solo album and the first of two to be labeled under the band name Neko Case & Her Boyfriends. It marked the first of many collaborations with Carolyn Mark, who Case would play with as The Corn Sisters, and Carl Newman, who she would play with in The New Pornographers. Most notably, “Jettison” features a duet with singer Rose Melberg, the Olympia indie-pop artist who played in Tiger Trap, Go Sailor, and The Softies.



“South Tacoma Way”: Of all her albums, Furnace Room Lullaby seems to be the most focused on Case’s youth growing up in Tacoma. “South Tacoma Way” finds Case returning to Tacoma and remembering the death of a loved one whose funeral she didn’t make it to, as she “Couldn’t pay my respects to a dead man.” Here, Tacoma is a dark place full of memories where “the cross streets bare your name.” On “Thrice All American,” she remembers how removed her town was from the world, a town where “factories churn,” “buildings are empty like ghettos or ghost towns,” and where “you know that you’re poor.” The places in Furnace Room Lullaby are specific since they come from Case’s memory, and while she points out the faults, she still sings fondly of her hometown throughout.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline”: On “South Tacoma Way”, Case sings about returning to her hometown, wishing she could hold hands with J.P. and Mary-Jo. No one else in the album gets named, but there are plenty of characters throughout these songs. There’s the couple in “Whip the Blankets” that is “bound for damnation,” the scorned ex-lover in “Bought & Sold”, and the haunted killer of the title track. The album is full of rich characters, even if they aren’t as detailed as many in later albums.

“I’m a Man”: While there aren’t many songs that directly take on gender, there are plenty that showcase Case’s disdain for societal expectations. On “Whip the Blankets”, Case remarks how the narrator’s “instinct is dirty and morality’s clean.” On “Mood to Burn Bridges”, she takes on people in her town who won’t mind their business and tell other people how to live their life. She calls out hypocrites who rush to criticize her indiscretions and spend all their time waiting for people to slip up so they can judge them. Case says that her “mood to burn bridges parallels (her) mood to dig ditches,” implying she’s ready to take on her enemies.

“Deep Red Bells”: The title track of the album, Furnace Room Lullaby, was inspired by Case’s desire to write a murder ballad in the spirit of The Louvin Brothers. The song indicates that the lover she burned in the furnace still haunts the house, that “all night, all I hear, all I hear’s your heart.” As she becomes “wrapped up in the depths of these deeds that have made” her, she remains trapped with this ghost. On the other side of the coin, a song like “Twist the Knife” finds Case’s narrator bleeding herself, pleading with a lover to stay, saying that she would “pay with the rest of my life” and “tear out my heart” as the other person walks away.

“Whip the Blankets”: Furnace Room Lullaby is one of the few albums in Case’s discography to not include covers, as Case has a writing credit on each song. While all the songs were original compositions for the record, a couple familiar names did stand out in collaborators.

Her Boyfriends: Furnace Room Lullaby features a wide variety of artists, including frequent guests Kelly Hogan, Brian Connolly, Carl Newman, and Dallas Good. Canadian pop artist Ron Sexmith helped co-write “We’ve Never Met”, and “Twist the Knife” features a writing credit from none other than Ryan Adams.



“South Tacoma Way” (locations mentioned): True to its name, Canadian Amp is an EP centered entirely around place. Granted, Case isn’t technically a native of the Great White North, but it’s where her career started in proper, and she pays tribute to her musical heritage here by covering four musicians from above the US border. The States themselves get name-dropped in “In California”, and Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken” pops up to show Arkansas (and the American South in general) some love.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline” (characters)Though most of the songs aren’t hers, it’s telling that Case gravitated towards tracks rooted in intensely drawn characters, from the fleeing lover in Mike O’Neill’s “Andy” to the doomed fling in “Poor Ellen Smith”. But the most vivid sketch comes from Neil Young, whose “Dreaming Man”‘s spurned, possibly violent lover (he carries a loaded gun in his Aerostar) undercuts the sweetness of the music.

“I’m a Man” (subversion of gender norms and stereotypes)Lots of gender flipping here, especially in the covers of Williams and Young. Case, badass that she is, never switches the pronouns either. This isn’t to specifically place the song from a woman’s perspective, but to show that perspective doesn’t matter. The songs could be a woman singing from a man’s point of view, a woman who’s in love with a woman, or the viewpoint from another character altogether.

“Deep Red Bells” (violence and murder ballads)There’s a threat of violence in “Dreaming Man” that may not come to fruition, and the two Case originals run thick with a redness that may be real or imagined. Closer “Favorite” finds her dreaming about a dead deer spilling blood onto her dress, and the creepier “Make Your Bed” is told by a drifter who promises to “tuck in” a young girl by throwing her in the river and letting the catfish feast on her skin. Canadian Amp’s centerpiece of death, however, comes in Case’s rendition of the traditional murder ballad “Poor Ellen Smith”, which tells the story of a man who kills his mentally challenged lover (one-night stand, really) after she won’t stop following him around.

“Whip the Blankets” (cover songs)Haven’t you been reading? This whole EP (almost) is made up of covers!

Her Boyfriends (personnel): The Sadies once again guest-star on “Make Your Bed”, and elsewhere, we get more brassy harmonies from Kelly Hogan, Brett Sparks of The Handsome Family, Chris Von Sneidern, and even some mournful violin by future chamber-pop wunderkind Andrew Bird.



“South Tacoma Way”: Blacklisted finds Case preoccupied with signifiers of American life. On opener “Things That Scare Me”, she remarks about being “haunted by American dreams.” On “Lady Pilot”, the titular character flies above the country, noting how Boulder City “looks like coals in the fire” and that the stars in the sky are losing out to city lights. Case’s ideal of America was never perfect or pretty, going all the way back to the encroaching Wal-Marts on “Furnace Room Lullaby”, and while Case never comes across as a “Back in My Day” kind of person, nostalgia and longing for something that is no longer the same is an inherent part of folk and country that Case does so well.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline”: There aren’t many named characters here, but still plenty of stories, from the pilot watching cities burn to the woman murdered on the interstate. The characters in Blacklisted are often longing to be somewhere else or to have things change, especially on the album’s centerpiece and one of Case’s most popular songs to date “I Wish I Was the Moon”. In the song, the narrator repeats how lonely and tired she is, exclaiming that she wishes she was something else for the night besides what she is, something calming and watchful like the moon. It’s a stark yet beautiful sentiment about wanting to escape your problems and fears and find some kind of peace away from it all.

“I’m a Man”: On “I Wish I Was the Moon”, Case exclaims, “God blessed me, I’m a free man with no place free to go” in a memorable passage. Beyond that, songs about gender pervade the record, from “Lady Pilot” to the women murdered by the Green River Killer. One especially poignant song is “Pretty Girls”, inspired by an experience Case once had at a Planned Parenthood in New York. In a 2010 interview with the New York Times, she recounted the event, saying, “I saw these girls waiting there, and it was just awful. It was cold, they were in gowns that didn’t really close, and their boyfriends and parents weren’t with them, and they were sitting under these bright lights, and the people were mean.” This inspired the lyrics “Your hearts are so tried and so innocent, wind your firmly blue gowns tight around you, around curves so comely and sinister, they blame it on you pretty girls.” Case always has a penchant for crafting sympathetic laments around real-life experiences, and this song serves as her message to the girls she saw in that waiting room one day frightened by protestors. Written almost 15 years ago, the song feels as relevant as ever today.

“Deep Red Bells”: Blacklisted contains one of the most harrowing murder ballads of Case’s career, the tragic “Deep Red Bells”, written from the point of view of one of the victims of the Green River Killer. Gary Ridgway was a serial killer who was convicted of killing 49 women in the Washington State area during the 1980s & 1990s, named after five of his victims were found in Green River. He was arrested in late 2001, right after Case had recorded the song, as she indicated in a 2006 interview with the A.V. Club. “I grew up while he was killing women, and on the news, they never talked about them like they were women,” Case said. “They just called them “prostitutes.” Myself and other little girls in my neighborhood didn’t make that distinction; we thought the Green River Killer was going to kill us.” Case taps into that fear here with the memorable song.

“Whip the Blankets”: After the covers-heavy focus of Canadian Amp, Case went back to just selecting two for this album. The first, “Look for Me, I’ll Be Around”, a classic jazz ballad from the ’50s with popular recordings by singers Sarah Vaughan and Ketty Lester, is kept faithful with Case’s smoky, slow rendition. On the second, Case delivers a thunderous take on Aretha Franklin’s “Running Out of Fools”. Unlike the folk or country covers on earlier records, Case took on soul and jazz here, signaling the transition taking place in her own music at the time.

Her Boyfriends: Blacklisted found Case settling into a groove with her band. Kelly Hogan, Brian Connelly, Dallas Good, and Tom Ray all returned from previous recordings. Canadian singer Mary Margaret O’Hara provided background vocals, and the album also marked the first of many collaborations with Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico.



“South Tacoma Way”: On her version of The Shangri-Las’ “The Train from Kansas City”, Case’s narrator tries to lightly let down her lover by telling him she got a letter from an ex in Kansas City and has to take the train there to tell the ex-boyfriend it’s over in person. The wit of the song is emblematic of the clever approach Case often took on her own compositions.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline”: In the songs Case chose to cover for this record, she tells the story of a woman asking her dressmaker to make the sweetest dress imaginable, so she can win back the man who left her (“Soulful Shade of Blue”); the woman who leaves her current lover for her ex back in Kansas City (“The Train from Kansas City”); and Loretta, who hugs sweet and low (“Loretta”). The characters in her original songs on the album include the narrator who pleads with her lover to stay rather than leave for the woman who “spends her daddy’s money and drives her daddy’s car” on “If You Knew”, the lonely tiger trapped in his cage on the title track, and the coyotes that yell to the moon on “Hex”.

“I’m a Man”: As the album is mostly covers-based, Case’s most pointed song here is her cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X”, a fun, up-tempo track that takes the piss out of people who go around slut-shaming. The song focuses on the stigma about divorce, with the narrator telling a woman that “the women all look at you like you’re bad, and the men all hope you are.” Originally written in 1973, the song has become a country staple about divorce and the antiquated notions that surround it. The song has remained continuously relevant, to the point where Miranda Lambert made a statement at the ACMs this past September covering the song as a tribute to Lynn, noting that the song spoke to her experience as a divorced woman in country music.

“Deep Red Bells”: There’s no murder here, but on “Hex”, the “lover’s spell” Case puts on her mark seems particularly harrowing, as she tells him that the night his dying and that his punishment for casting her aside is that her heart beating will be the only sound he will hear ever again.

“Whip the Blankets”: The only live album featured in Case’s upcoming box set reissue, The Tigers Have Spokenfeatures more covers than most of her other releases. The album includes a cover of “Hex”, written by Freakwater singer Catherine Irwin, “Soulful Shade of Blue” by Buffy St. Marie, “The Train from Kansas City” by The Shangri-Las”, “Loretta” by The Nervous Eaters, and “Rated X” by Loretta Lynn. Case even concludes the record with her take on traditional folk songs “This Little Light” and “Wayfaring Stranger”. Tigersfinds Case indulging more in the alt-country material of her earlier days while also hinting at the more straightforward rock approach she would move toward with her subsequent records.

Her Boyfriends: Tigersfeatures a murderer’s row of people Case has worked with before. Carolyn Mark of The Corn Sisters and Kelly Hogan and Brian Connelly of her normal backing band all make appearances. The Sadies, who helped Case write a few of the original pieces on the album, also serve as the backing band for the live performances that make up the record. Of all her records, Tigers does the best job of capturing both the influences that drove Case’s sound as well as the contemporaries she worked with to help form it.



“South Tacoma Way”: St. Angel Church and Spanaway, Washington (in “A Widow’s Toast” and “John Saw That Number”), are the only properly named locations, but all of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood seems to take place in a distinct world where nature is equally as dangerous as killers, drug dealers, and false prophets. There’s some beauty, sure, but it often gets blackened out by the darker elements in the songwriting. There’s a reason Case dubbed this record as “country-noir” upon its release.

“Margaret Vs. Pauline”: Those two very characters make up the opening track, with each one coming from a different socioeconomic background. By the end, we’re painfully reminded how some folks are born with the cards stacked against them, while others aren’t. Later on, John the Baptist becomes a controversial figure in Case’s reworking of the traditional “John Saw That Number”, where even God himself doubts the preacher’s miracles.

“I’m a Man”: There are some pointedly specific comments on gender throughout Fox Confessor, most notably in “Margaret Vs. Pauline”, which posits that, from a class standpoint, young girls are more predisposed to be pitted against each other than boys. There’s a higher currency on what they wear, how they dress, who they hang out with, etc. But there are also some more umbrella statements to be gleaned from all of the violence and mysticism, mainly the blunt idea that all of us — men, women, children, and animals — are all stuck in a world that don’t owe you shit.

“Deep Red Bells”: Where to begin? Fox Confessoris easily Case’s most violent album. Right after the socioeconomic divide of “Margaret Vs. Pauline”, we’re transported to Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood (where Case lived for a time) to wince at the young woman who sees her lover ruthlessly mowed down. Despite some romantic respites throughout (“That Teenage Feeling” is unabashedly nostalgic and sweet), we get God putting out a hit on John the Baptist in “John Saw That Number” and what may be Case’s most gruesome murder ballad of all, “Dirty Knife”. After getting mortally stabbed in his cabin, a woodsman has to contend with the menagerie of vicious wildlife outside. He sings nursery rhymes to try and soothe the beasts, but it’s useless — a pack of wolves is soon upon him, tearing through his three winter coats to get to the soft, very human skin underneath.

“Whip the Blankets”: Given that the album shirks Case’s more traditional early country influences for something more sweeping, ominous, and in touch with the dangers of both the urban and the natural worlds, it’s no surprise that the only cover to be found on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is “John Saw That Number”. And even then, it feels disingenuous to call it a cover, considering how much Case reworked it.

Her Boyfriends: The usual suspects (Kelly Hogan, various members of Calexico and The Sadies) are joined by rugged songwriters such as Howe Gelb, rockabilly musicians like Dexter Romweber, and Garth Hudson of The Band, who shows up to further rep Canada and brighten some of the shadows with his honeyed organ and piano playing.



“South Tacoma Way”/”Margaret Vs. Pauline”: Aside from Mother Earth, no characters — or specific places for that matter — get mentioned by name. That’s because on Middle Cyclone, Case abandons the country-noir of Fox Confessor Brings the Floodfor something warmer and more optimistic. In her own words, it’s an album that yearns for human connection and her realizing that she needs love, just like anyone else. The songs are still stories, but they’re more internal stories about exploring emotion rather than building a linear narrative.

“I’m a Man”: Using a string of ferocious animal metaphors (an angry elephant, a bear in a cave, a killer whale eating his trainer), Case proudly proclaims herself as a man-eater on “People Got a Whole Lotta Nerve”. This predatory kind of approach to romance is usually reserved for AC/DC and KISS songs, so why shouldn’t she get to play along, too? The video takes the beastly content even further, depicting a young, cardboard cutout version of Case wandering around a mansion full of dangerous wildlife. There’s not a man in sight, however — the only people able to tame these creatures are little girls.

“Deep Red Bells”: The violence is expectedly toned down here in favor of pastoral ambience that comes from the barn where Middle Cyclone was recorded (and stocked with a stage and six pianos). Several songs contain real-life animal noises in the background (owl hoots, cricket chirps, etc.), and the final track, “Marais la Nuit”, consists entirely of a field recordings Case conducted at a nearby pond.

“Whip the Blankets”: After the almost cover-less Fox Confessor, she returns with two knockouts here: a more epic, orchestral version of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” and a more lulling take on Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth”, both of which tie into the record’s comforting connection to nature (a far cry from Fox Confessor’s more anxious one).

Her Boyfriends: It’s mostly the same personnel from last time (even Hudson returns), with some additional guitar work from M. Ward.


9333 Dissected: Neko Cases Albums from Worst to Best

“South Tacoma Way”/”Margaret Vs. Pauline”: Same deal as Middle Cyclone. The Worse Things Get eschews specific locations and characters to make room for an exorcism of sorts. After Middle Cyclone, Case plummeted into a deep depression after losing her grandmother, and this is the sound of her getting out of it. “Night Still Comes” appears to document this through geometrical and astrological terminology, and much later on, “Ragtime” sees her coming to peace with death by imagining her departed relatives all in a marbled room together, laughing and encouraging her to enjoy life.

We do get one heart-wrenching character sketch, however. “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” tells a completely true story of Case witnessing a mother being verbally abusive to her child while waiting for an airplane shuttle. The singer empathizes with the kid, telling him to never lose faith, even as his loved ones let him down. “I still love you, even if I don’t see you again”, she reminds him. That story’s a far cry from her murder ballads of old, but also much more relatable to the average listener.

“I’m a Man”: “Man”, the song that gave this category its name doesn’t view maleness as specific to one gender, but as an emblem of toughness. As a result, Case never has to justify the gender swap or explain that she’s not speaking in literal terms. Anyone who’s had to fight is a man, especially her. Devouring bullies, getting dip-shit drunk, and burrowing a home in the fucking moon are just a few of her accomplishments.

“Deep Red Bells”: There isn’t a lot of physical violence here, and not a single murder as far as I can tell, but the emotional turmoil that Case — and many others on the record, especially the kid in Hawaii — had to endure can be just as damaging.

“Whip the Blankets”: “Afraid”, in which Neko Case gets playful and finally covers Nico. Both versions rely mostly on piano, although Case’s sounds as if it were plucked right from a starry sky, probably because she — in a direct bird-flip to her younger self — ditched the original’s country touches of harmonica and fiddle.

Her Boyfriends: More sonic majesty from the likes of Kelly Hogan, Paul Rigby, and company, with some all-star appearances from M. Ward (again), Jim James, Tom Waits’ axe-man Marc Ribot, and fellow Pornographers (at the time, at least) Kurt Dahle and AC Newman.

Other Neko Case recordngs include:

The Corn Sisters

  • The Other Women (CA: Mint Records, 2000)

The New Pornographers

  • Mass Romantic (CA: Mint Records; US & EU: Matador Records, 2000)
  • Electric Version (CA: Mint Records; US & EU: Matador Records, 2003)
  • Twin Cinema (CA: Mint Records; US & EU: Matador Records, 2005)
  • Challengers (CA: Last Gang Records; US & EU: Matador Records, 2007)
  • Together (US: Matador Records, 2010)
  • Brill Bruisers (CA: Last Gang Records; US: Matador Records, 2014)
  • Whiteout Conditions (Concord Music Group, 2017)

The Sadies

  • Make Your Bed/Gunspeak/Little Sadie (7″) (US: Bloodshot Records, 1998)
  • Car Songs My ’63 / Highway 145 (by Whiskeytown) (Split 7″) (US: Bloodshot Records BS 037, 1998)


Decades after the release of their last album, garage rockers the Sonics are returning with a new LP, “This Is the Sonics. The group, best known lately for their raucous 1965 recording of “Have Love Will Travel,” heralded the news with a gritty, sax-powered single, “Bad Betty” Previously, the This Is the Sonics track appeared in a different version on a split seven-inch single with Mudhoney that came out on Record Store Day last year.
Three of the band’s original members – vocalist-keyboardist Jerry Roslie, guitarist-vocalist Larry Parypa and multi-instrumentalist Rob Lind, who plays sax, harmonica and sings – recorded the new album in “earth-shaking mono” with a rhythm section that has played with the Kingsmen and Dick Dale. Producer Jim Diamond recorded the band in Seattle, less than an hour’s drive from the band’s hometown of Tacoma. The album is due out on March 31st.
In addition to putting out a new album, the group will be hitting the road for a North American spring headlining trek. Mudhoney will be joining them at their record release party on April 2nd at Seattle’s Moore Theater, along with other as-yet-unannounced guests, and the band will receive support from Barrence Whitfield and the Savages from their New York City date until the end of the tour.
The Sonics were most active in the mid-Sixties, when they put out their influential 1965 LP “Here Are the Sonics” and 1966 record Boom, putting their own unique stamp on revved-up garage rock.


Throughout history, individuals have been playing with the delicate balance between polarities. Often, the combination of two opposites makes for a harmony previously unknown, a sum greater than its parts. Motopony is the embodiment of this notion – a band built on a bedrock of contrasts and the gorgeous alchemy of seemingly conflicted sounds, and the feelings mapped over them. Guided Daniel Blue and Buddy Ross along with guitarist Brantley Cady and drummer Forrest Mauvais, there is a warm efficiency to the hard-soul/glitch-folk contained on the quartet’s self-titled debut.