Review: Neneh Cherry Addresses Global Issues with Playful Resolve on ‘Broken Politics’


Whether mixing up free-jazz and ‘80s punk-funk with Rip Rig and Panic on “Storm The Reality Asylum,” or rap and electro-pop on her own 1989 hit “Buffalo Stance”, Neneh Cherry has always bent styles to serve her own ends. She’s still doing it on Broken Politics, which folds a career’s worth of musical obsessions into a single set. She’s also speaking her mind, per usual, addressing our global shitshow not with histrionics, but with heartfelt, clear-eyed ruminations, sorrow, playfulness and resolve.

Her cohorts include Four Tet, whose electro-acoustic beats are a perfect match for a flow that shifts between singing, rapping, and poetry-slam cadences as naturally as breathing. Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja adds dub logic to “Kong,” a mighty jam that samples King Tubby while Cherry free-associates between macro and micro-aggressions: “love is big and every land every nation seeks its friends in France and Italy and all across the 7 seas/ And goddam guns and guts and history and bitter love still put a hole in me,” she incants. The sense of groping for meaning in a sea of emotional triggers, both personal and political, will be a familiar one for many.

Firearms return to her narrative on “Shotgun Shack,” as gentle percussion loops conjure impressionistic AR-15s. “Black Monday” ponders the weight of pregnancy and choice over funereal beats and gamelan chimes: “Is it not my right/ when to breed/ to my own/ guilt/ it’s so hard anyway.” And on the explicitly autobiographical “Syncronized Devotion” — featuring vibrophonist Karl Berger, a global jazz pioneer and bandmate of Cherry’s late stepdad, legendary trumpeter Don Cherry — she declares her politics to be “living in the slow jam/Everything low bring it slow.” As social media crack-hits amp us all up to the breaking point, these downtempo warrior cries feel both radical and sustaining.

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