Happy Birthday, Neko Case!

Born 41 years ago today, Neko Case represents alt-country's dark side... and its seductive side as well. For the past 14 years or so, she's carved out a successful solo career spiked with an insurgent attitude and uncompromising character. Along the way, she's also plied her talents with various roots-rock outfits, lending her distinctive voice to bands like the Sadies and Vancouver's New Pornographers, the latter of which welcomes her back whenever she wants to return. In celebration of her big day, we're happy to point out half a dozen reasons why Case deserves our love and admiration.

1) Her bands have great names: Case's first musical venture found her playing drums in a band called Maow. Not "Meow," mind you, because being a punk band, they weren't about being pussies. She then phased into her next group, the Weasles, a name that best describes any sleazeball who attempts to do someone wrong. Of course, you can't beat a name like the New Pornographers... unless it happens to be the Corn Sisters, which is the tag she used for her collaboration with Canadian singer Carolyn Mark. She dubbed her own early backing band, the Boyfriends, a brand that seems tame by comparison. 

2) She's a rebel: Case left home at the tender age of 15 to seek her fortune and never looked back. All of her recordings reflect a darkness and defiance that have become her stock and trade. What better way to describe an artist whose holiday song is titled "Santa Left a Booger In My Stocking"?

3) Case isn't content: Most artists have found the Pacific Northwest to be an excellent environment for budding artists. Neko did not. Following the release of her second album, she left town and headed for Chicago, saying Seattle didn't provide enough nurturing for local talent. 

4) She has artistic integrity: In 2003, Case was voted the "Sexiest Babe of Indie Rock" in a Playboy.com internet poll, garnering 32 percent of the vote. But when asked to pose nude for the magazine, she declined. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she insisted, "I didn't want to be the girl who posed in Playboy and then -- by the way -- made some music. I would be really fucking irritated if after a show somebody came up to me and handed me some naked picture of myself and wanted me to sign it instead of my CD." You have to admire that stance. Instead, on the cover of her second album, Furnace Room Lullaby, she's pictured sprawled out like a corpse on a concrete floor. 

5) She makes great albums: To date, she's recorded eight individual efforts -- The Virginian, Furnace Room Lullaby, Canadian Amp, Blacklisted, The Tigers Have Spoken, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Live from Austin, TX, and Middle Cyclone -- and each has reaped its share of critical acclaim. Middle Cyclone reached the top five on the national rock and indie charts and nearly made her a star. 

6) Case likes her comfort: It was said that the title of her album Blacklisted references the fact that she was banned for life from the Grand Ole Opry, all because she took her shirt off during a 2004 performance. Case attributed it to the fact that she had heatstroke. "People would love it to be a 'fuck you' punk thing," she told one interviewer. "But it was actually a physical ailment thing." 

7) She won't sell out: "I hope I can comfort people a bit," she's quoted as saying. "Maybe show people that making music is fun and accessible to them as well. I'm not out to become Faith Hill, I never want to play an arena, and I never want to be on the MTV Video Music Awards, much less make a video with me in it. I would like to reach a larger audience... I care very much about that."

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