Indie rock journeypeople of various acclaimed ensembles, projects and collaborations? Check. Love of folk fundamentals but an even greater love of blowing up those fundamentals and pushing stylistic envelopes? Check. Purveyors of nu-Americana (Numericana?) committed to genre pluralism and deconstruction of — don’t fall asleep on me, this is going somewhere! Neko Case and M. Ward, the hardest-working alt-country crooners in show business have been teaming up since Ward’s 2006 album Post War. It makes a lot of sense given their career parallels and stylistic similarities, namely their proven willingness to make any kind of music under the sun, so long as it’s good.
Enter “Man,” which could be the soundtrack to a road trip from college radio-era Athens to Riot Grrl-era Seattle. Crunchy guitar riffs and blistering drum fills are the coins of this realm. Case’s vocals, accustomed to driving, take a backseat. The gender bending directness of the lyricism is very punk, if the smooth production belies a reluctance to go all the way down the rabbit hole. But who cares, Case seems to be saying – “Man” isn’t just a subversion of the gender binary, but stylistic pigeonholing too. Case is no Kathleen Hanna, and she’s well aware, but there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.