Peter Case


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While recuperating from major heart surgery in 2009 (paid for in part by loyal fans who organized benefit shows on his behalf and remastering some old Plimsouls, Nerves, and Breakaways albums for re-release) Peter Case was inspired to assemble a makeshift band, craft a new batch of songs, play some life-affirming gigs, and record the resulting new work. Raise your hand if you think that a set of numbers written in those circumstances would be -- sweet and sunny folk-rock? Maudlin tearjerkers? They're neither. Case sidesteps pathos altogether by offering a pummeling set of dirty blues-rockers played with utter conviction by drummer DJ Bonebrake (X, the Knitters) and guitarist Ron Franklin (Gasoline Silver). The trio laid these 12 tracks down fast, mostly live to two-inch tape with scant overdubs, and the off-the-cuff vibe creates a thrilling authenticity, hitting the sweet spot where garage rock, punk, and the visceral wail of blues converge. Highlights include "Dig What You're Putting Down," a preening come-on that is both celebratory and baleful, with a lead vocal emanating straight from the id, as much a nod to the Cramps' Lux Interior as to the great blues singers. "House Rent Jump" -- which could be about personal debt or the decline of the economy, or both -- swings with a deadly insistence that is one part desperation, one part no-tomorrow revelry. The lyrics here are fittingly simple and direct, but still show flashes of Case's characteristic wit and poetic attention to detail, such as the beloved Lower East Side pizzeria and knish bakery that are name-checked in one song. Case revisits his own "Old Blue Car" (repurposed here as "New Old Blue Car") and injects it with the messy urgency of a man keen on driving all night just to keep his life moving forward. Howling lyrics he wrote over 20 years ago, Case seems to better understand the reality of them. "Life is long and the road gets mean/but the old blue car is more than just a machine."

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