“This Tornado Loves You” is the best song Neko Case has to her name at this point in time, and I’m including her work with the New Pornographers when I say this so you’ll know just how much that compliment means when you recall she’s responsible for the rather stellar “Letter From an Occupant.” The electric guitar is all whirlwind, heat and flash to sonically capture Neko Case’s subject matter, wherein she compares the feelings of unrequited love (or what she would do for reciprocation) to a tornado, “I left them motherless, fatherless / Their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths,” “Their broken necks will line the ditch,” “Smashed every transformer with every trailer.” “People Got a Lotta Nerve” is also good (probably selected as the album’s representative single because it’s one of the few that follows the pop song format); the hook is catchy and the second instance of the bridge, where Neko Case explores the full range of her powerful voice, is easily the album’s best moment.
But for the most part, Middle Cyclone ain’t much. Though she has a bigger cast than ever helping her out and bigger names in said cast (including one Garth Hudson from the Band; I’m guessing he’s responsible for “Don’t Forget Me”), they’re rarely given much room to do anything at all except just stand there; what does it say that the album’s most memorable melody after those two songs is a well-performed cover of a Sparks song? It doesn’t help her – erm – case that a lot of these songs are underbaked (ie. “The Next Time You Say Forever” is a carrying case for a single couplet – you’ll know it when you hear it – and the musical box intro, the only thing interesting sonically-speaking, pops up again on the title track). Then, when a more fully-formed song finally comes along in “Prison Girls,” it just plods along – get a new drummer, please.
Oh, and fuck “Marais la nuit.” Burn it with fire.