Release Date: Oct 19, 2018
Record label: Smalltown Supersound
Neneh Cherry is arguably one of the more diverse artists making pop music today. For three-plus decades now she's offered her own unique twist on pop that stretches effortlessly beyond its conventional constraints, creating something challenging and beautiful at the same time (her debut Raw Like Sushi is a classic in its own right and the best place to start). The same holds true for her fifth album, Broken Politics.
It’s nearly 30 years since Neneh Cherry burst into our consciousness, performing Buffalo Stance on Top Of The Pops while – gasp! – heavily pregnant (something that was considered a pretty revolutionary act in 1989), and releasing one of the defining albums of the times in Raw Like Sushi, an album that still sounds as fresh and relevant today as it did at the end of the ’80s. After her 18-year hiatus, Cherry returned four years ago with Blank Project, which saw her recruit Four Tet‘s Kieran Hebden on production duties. It’s obviously a collaboration that suits both parties, as Hedben has returned to produce Cherry’s fifth solo album, Broken Politics.
The making of Neneh Cherry's third proper solo album within seven years began with songs demo'ed beside longtime partner Cameron McVey. Kieran Hebden received the recordings, created backing tracks on laptop, recorded Cherry's vocals at Creative Music Studio -- a Woodstock facility that once hosted Cherry's stepfather Don Cherry -- and finalized the material with some adjustments. While Hebden also produced 2014's Blank Project, this one is quite different, with his software synthesizer and sample-based latticeworks the foundation rather than the comparatively raucous interplay of duo Rocketnumbernine.
If you've followed Neneh Cherry at all over the years, you'll know she takes her time. After 2014's Blank Project, one might have assumed it would be a while before Cherry's next album (the last, Man, came out in 1996). Perhaps world events have given her a sense of urgency. Entitled Broken Politics, Cherry's latest references the refugee crisis, gun violence, fascism, racism and a collective sense of despair.
Neneh Cherry's fifth album in 30 years is called Broken Politics, a reflection of the ebullience lost in realizing that our politics have always been that way. Nearly three decades ago, Cherry topped international and stateside charts with "Buffalo Stance," a diva dance and hip-hop hybrid that, like De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising the same year, heralded bursts of color in every sense. On her second album in four years to be produced by Four Tet mastermind Kieran Hebden, Cherry creates a dozen landscapes where chimes and samples of various ringing objects act as reminders of other ways of living--offering, if not a way out of politics altogether, then at least a way of relying on our own devices.
The undersung icon's fifth album is an eclectic collection of personal and political songs, a reminder she remains a vital voice Neneh Cherry never played by the rules. "Another symphony in session," she sings on 'Black Monday', and it's true the undersung icon creates a complex, multi-layered tapestry of sound on her fifth album. There's no obvious, overarching theme, except for the fact that 'Broken Politics' is the work of an artist who long ago earned the right to follow her own muse.
"It's my politics living in a slow jam," murmurs Neneh Cherry in this, her fifth solo album and the first since 2014. It's also the first in these tumultuous political times, and she responds, not with bombast or rabble-rousing, but with sly, slinky, sinuous downtempo grooves. Lyrics touch on the unchecked guns and lies and violence of our era, but the songs are engulfed in a shimmering electronic chill.
Neneh Cherry first made mainstream waves in the 80s and 90s with cross-genre smash-hits such as 'Buffalo Stance' from award-winning debut 'Raw Like Sushi'. In the decades since, Cherry's diverse projects and collaborations have continued to surprise and delight. Now the multi-faceted agent of cool is back with a fifth solo album, 'Broken Politics'. It's ostensibly more restrained than preceding 'Blank Project' from 2014 yet holds a subtle potency.
A certain sassiness has been part of Neneh Cherry's modus operandi since her days in the Bristol underground, before she became one of the 80s' coolest pop stars. Although the title of Broken Politics - her fifth solo album overall - suggests buffalo stances and narrowed eyes, Cherry is actually in reflective mood on this second outing with Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden (the first was 2014's Blank Project). Sloganeering is limited to a snippet of the Last Poets' Blessed Are Those Who Struggle.