Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way: I realize that the audio I’m about to post will offend some of my more sensitively-eared readers. Be warned, there is cussing. Not only is there cussing, there is the F-Bomb, the mother of all. Now, I don’t cuss. Nor do I personally advocate cussing, especially in everyday language. It makes you sound ignorant, crass and thoughtless. There is so much power in carefully chosen words that most cussing just seems like the easy way out to me.
However, in movies, art, and music, there might be a case to be made for the strategically placed obscenity. Sometimes there are no better words to express a deep angst of the heart. This song may be one of those exceptions. It hurts my ears when Case let’s loose with the expletive precisely because of the context; because of the way it happened and it’s supposed to hurt because the words were supposed to hurt their recipient. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For those who may not be familiar with Neko Case, she’s come through the musical ranks in a similar fashion to Wilco; starting with both feet firmly planted in “alt. country,” then stepping out into controlled pop experimentation. Case started out playing drums in Vancouver punk bands and is part of the power pop super-group New Pornographers. Pitchfork recently tried to describe her voice, saying: “Case has a moonbeam for a voice: imposing in timbre, opalescent in tone, and always surprising in its sheer force.” That’s about right.
Case just released her new album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You on anti-Records. Though I would love to write about the whole album, I have to admit that the first time I listened through, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the song “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.” I have long been accustomed to the power of music, but I was simply unprepared for the salty discharge that seeped from eyes as Case sang a layered a capella tale about transcending an abusive childhood. I cried not only because Case candidly tells the story of an everyday encounter that is the tip of the iceberg of a child’s suffering, but because my wife and I have sacrificed a lot to help with that suffering.
We currently have eight children, four of whom are foster children. By no stretch of the imagination has it been easy. In fact, it’s often been pretty difficult. We can’t go in out in public with all eight children without receiving comments or visibly seeing people count with their fingers “1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 5 . . . 6 . . . 7 . . . 8 . . .” usually accompanied by some sort of “Boy, you sure have your hands full” type of comment, or worse, a snarky comment about having too many children. It has cost us money to serve. It has cost us time to open our home. We regularly invite CPS and others into our home so that we can jump through their hoops to have the the privilege of sacrificing for children that aren’t biologically ours.
Though we personally do this from Christian motives, Case’s song taps into something deeply entrenched in our daily lives: we are giving love to children who might otherwise not know it existed. We are providing security to kids who desperately long for stability. I don’t say this to pat ourselves on the back, just to give you a glimpse behind the curtain. We are asked all the time why we would do this. Case makes a powerful case for why we do this in just 2 minutes and 38 seconds. This is probably a good place for you to hear the track for yourself:
The fact that Case took the time to write a song about this incident shows that it affected her and I can’t help but shout “YES!” as she insists that, as that child grows up, there is still love, despite their experience. There is a place for that child, they have value, despite what their Mom has done and said. Case not only documents the brutality of life but the hope of love. She not only lets us look into the shadows but points us to the light. No, it’s not comfortable, but then again, neither is much of life. Case sings with the heart of a foster parent and I’m grateful that she has put into song some things we wrestle with everyday.