David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 309: Neko Case (This Tornado Loves You)

December 16, 2023

Somewhere in Vermont, circa 2008.

"Hey, guys, meet me in the barn. I want to talk about a tornado."

"Uh, Neko, shouldn't we go to the storm cellar? You did see The Wizard of Oz, right? You know, how the cow goes flying past her window?"

"No, you misunderstand. I've got this idea of a love song between a tornado and a young woman. Let's go out to my barn and record it. I got 8 used pianos out there I got for free from Craigslist. It will be a blast."

And, somehow, this idea worked, not as a set-up for some B-grade horror movie, which would have been fantastic itself, but as the set up for the opening track to Neko Case's 2008 Middle Cyclone. Among the people she lured to this Vermont barn to perform as part of her "Piano Orchestra" was The Band's Garth Hudson, who may have found it a bit more spacious than the Big Pink.

The barn famously presented Case opportunities to incorporate the sounds of nature into her songs, which only makes sense for a CD that had a song called "I'm An Animal," among separate songs about a tornado, a cyclone, a magpie, nettles, red tides, and killer whales all to set up a 30+ minute final recording of the nightlife surrounding the property's pond. Especially when she fires up the Piano Orchestra, the expansiveness of the barn adds a surreal quality to the recording. There's something about the disparate tinkling of the various pianos for her cover of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me" that is, well, unforgettable, and which would fit well as the soundtrack to our horror film, The Barn: When Farming Means Harming.

All of this pastoral Vermont recording gets kicked off by "This Tornado Loves You," which is a love song about a tornado passionately pursuing its (I refuse to assign it a gender) love interest, invoking a wrath of destruction in its wake. Following a softly strummed guitar intro that sounds like distant rolling thunder, a tornado declares, "My love, I am the speed of sound." Via Case's remarkable voice, we learn that its passion is strong enough to leave "them motherless, fatherless, their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths," yet un-sated because "it's never enough, I want you." All in all, a fitting opening stanza for an album that will feature a cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth."

Did one of the band members stop the song at this point, and go, "Wait, Neko. Explain this to us again. You say you had a dream of a tornado romantically pursuing a young woman? You know, not all dreams have been captured and recorded. This is kind of bleak. And could you crank up the heat in this freaking barn? It's freezing." (Such hypothethical dialogue not assigned to Canadian Hudson, who probably has endured hypothermal conditions on the great Ontario plains.)

Or maybe they just plowed on, masterful (or at least professional) musicians ignoring the song's central figure of speech as it continued on its damage rampage: "carved your name across three counties/ground it in with bloody hides/their broken necks will lie in the ditch," or later "smashed every transformer with every trailer/til nothing was  standing 65 miles wide."  Did they take a collective sigh of relief when the tornado seems to die down, Case escaping into "My love/I am an owl on the sill in the evening . . ." only to be pushed from the calm eye of the storm back into the winds of "but morning still finds you warm and breathing."

Case asserts the song is truly about a tornado's romantic pursuits, per the dream referenced above. Maybe we need to remind Case that dreams are about so much more than they seem. Somewhere in her psyche, armchair Freud asserts, Case has either been Alex Forrest or Dan Gallagher. If they remake Fatal Attraction, please use "This Tornado Loves You" as the theme song, showing us Alex pursuing Dan, pleading "I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, how you'd sigh yourself to sleep," ultimately to end up at his house, knife in hand, singing explosively, "this tornado loves you, this tornado loves you, this tornado loves you, this tornado loves you, this tornado loves, what will make you believe me?"  Given the nature of remakes, that version of Fatal Attraction is likely to be my desired B-grade horror movie. The rabbit gets it either way.

Case, Neko. "This Tornado Loves You." Middle Cyclone. ANTI-, 2009. Link here.

Day 308: Al Stewart "The Year Of The Cat"

Day 310: Pig Iron "People Gonna Talk"

See complete list here.