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Preview: Neko Case 

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the singer-songwriter, who appears at the Civic Theatre Jan. 27

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Of all the wild creatures Neko Case has inhabited in her songs — the articulate tigers, confessional foxes, voracious lions and crowing magpies, not to mention the destructive love and wrathful neglect of Mother Earth — the most inhuman must be the humans. Case used to circle the mortal coil, reporting abstractly in detailed prose on the magically surreal and tragically real lives of others: "The most tender place in my heart is for strangers," she declared on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and "Margaret vs. Pauline," her picture of charmed obliviousness and pitiable envy that opens the album, paints a salty watercolor of cinnamon-wave hair and parking-lot eyes, its dividing line drawn in sharpened charcoal ("Two girls walk down the same street/ One left her sweater sitting on the train, the other lost three fingers at the cannery"). Middle Cyclone literalized her force-of-nature voice, anthologizing her spectrum of protagonists and antagonists in a cluster of becalming storms that funnel into "Marais la Nuit" ("Marsh at Night"), a half-hour of cricket chirps and frog croaks. The disturbances on her new LP, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-), are inside her: Case lost her parents and grandmother after Middle Cyclone, and she's both the subject and object of "Wild Creatures" — whose refrain "Hey little girl, would you like to be the king's pet or the king?" grows into the sad realization "There's no mother's hands to quiet me" — and of time-and-place vocal showcase "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu," a jarring, vulgar observation of parental abuse that spurs a passionate defense. She's no less committed on lead single "Man," a driving rocker that derides identity crises via a reassignment of gender roles: "If I'm dipshit drunk on the pink perfume/ I am the man in the f—king moon/ 'Cause you didn't know what a man was until I showed you." There's no question who wears the pants now. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down opens. Tickets $30.


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