Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Neko Case

The Tigers Have Spoken (2004)


My only previous experience with Neko Case had been with her work with The New Pornographers. They are such a fantastic pop band, and her sweet vocals add a kick to songs like "The Laws Have Changed" and "All for Swinging You Around", so of course I was excited to receive this album to review. Having never heard her solo work, I only assumed this would be a great sugar-tooth pop record. Boy, was I disappointed at first, for what I received was a live alt-country album, heavy on the country side. After doing a bit of investigating, I found that country is indeed her thing, she was merely a voice with The New Pornographers and not a songwriter. In fact, she is not much of a songwriter at all, for her albums (the first was 1997's The Virginian) have been mostly covers with the exception of the 2002's Blacklisted. But she does have quite a voice, and though I was surprised at first, I took the album for what it is and found myself enjoying most of it despite not being a country music fan.

Like I said, The Tigers Have Spoken is a live album, recorded primarily at small clubs in Toronto and Chicago, but this is not a greatest hits collection. It has only two rerecorded tunes, the rest being new covers and some new original material. It also showcases a different side of her work, the upbeat side. From what I can find, most of her work has been sparing, slow and drummer-less. Her backup band The Sadies bring the drums, as well as the pedal steel, banjo, guitar, and male and female backups to harmonize with Case, making this a much more cheerful and fun-loving record than the darker Blacklisted.

The standouts would be the new original opener "If You Knew", with it's sad and soulful twang and awesome echoed female vocals; the drum pounding, tambourine-filled Shangri-Las' tune "Train from Kansas City"; and the title track, another original, with a country hook and harmonies so good even I can't resist. Another cover, "Loretta" is the most upbeat of the album, full of speedily-strummed guitars, zooming by in under 2 minutes. Then there is Loretta Lynn's "Rated X", which is undeniably country, full of slide guitar and vocal twang, but is great nonetheless.

There are some tracks that bored me such as the drudging new original "Hex" and the spooky yet pass-able rerecorded tune "Blacklisted". The hard to find "Favorite" is just alright; it definitely showcases Case's chops with plenty of drawl and soul, yet that's what does it in for me- it's just a little too country and grates on me.

The only song not recorded in a club is the traditional tune "Wayfaring Stranger", but it is no studio track either. It was recorded at a conference where Neko lead a session and taught 300-some people the chorus to the tune and recorded it on the spot, with banjo accompaniment and her on lead. It is quite glorious to hear that many people singing along and it is definitely an original idea of hers, showing the conference the ease at which the laymen can make music. However, I feel that the foot-stomping lord-praising traditional tune "This Little Light" would have ended the album on a more energetic note.

While I did warm up to this, I can only take so much country, so thank god this is only 35 minutes. It's a well done live album, not really up my alley but maybe yours. At this website, I kind of doubt it, though.