Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics

review neneh cherry x1 cong

Cherry’s fifth album in 30 years take some appreciating, but after a number of plays, we like it a lot. It takes those repeated plays to get into as it’s nuanced, and nuanced can take time.

All the songs feature Cherry’s vocals over percussion, although that percussion might be piano, and some of it is loops and beats.

Lyrically, it does what it says on the tin. In case you don’t get it, there’ s a flowchart on the sleeve from “broken politics” to “have to be positive” to “I love my community” and “Who am I to say?”. It’s not the sound of an angry person, but someone who’s decided that politicians only lie when their lips move, there’s no point getting angry so just do what you can.

Musically, it’s chilled and adopts a world meets electro vibe, with Cherry singing, and sometimes talking, over the beats. Opener Fallen Leaves is typical, with a slightly mournful autumnal feel and the line “Just because I’m down / Don’t step all over me.” It’s a good opener, nicely low key, and next up is Kong, with Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja appearing to give a trip hop feel vaguely reminiscent of Karmacoma (to which we had to listen three times as a result).

Standouts include the piano-led Synchronised Devotion and Deep Vein Thrombosis, named after the blood clotting condition but possibly reflecting on the futility of life. “It’s funny how fragile is a life,” she sings, the DVT being both a means to end a life and the attitude of people who refuse to help the less well off, despite that futility and temporary nature of their own wealth. There’s punnery on vain and vein. Natural Skin Deep is also good, an airhorn waking up anyone who’s got too chilled, and a strong trip hop beat (and kettle drums) under the vocals.

Overall, Karmacoma is a good comparison; that was clearly a classic and this is not but it has the same vibe and feel.
For those who care, this is produced by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden.


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