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Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics (Album Review)

Thursday, 25 October 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘Broken Politics’ is Neneh Cherry’s fifth studio album her second in collaboration with producer Kieran Hebden, who performs as Four Tet. The result is a rich, trip-hop melange that expertly packages Cherry’s spoken word with elegant far eastern patches and motifs. It’s music that feels like it was born in the ‘90s, but it also has a degree of currency - if not urgency.

Stand out moments include the excellent Synchronised Devotion, which seems to purposely obfuscate a defined point of view in favour of stream-of-consciousness free verse: “It’s my politics livin’ in a slow jam / synchronised devotion / I’m a Pisces.” It’s a quiet, ethereal track entirely devoid of drums and gives the album a detailed, thought-provoking presence.

That said, political agendas are often defined by the subject matter as much as the opinions on show. ‘Broken Politics’ deals with refugees, abortion and gun violence, and when Cherry’s free-form bars confront the nature of conspiracy theories, they are potent.

Faster Than the Truth is a track that deploys Steve Gadd’s distinctive jazz shuffle from Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover alongside a rootsy Rhodes riff to directly homage the track. It nonetheless has an intensity and poise that easily generates its own identity. Truthfully, one imagines that particular beat would be used more frequently were it not so distinctive. 

Another excellent moment comes with the penultimate jam, Slow Release. Not only does this track operate with a tight tonal group - channeling almost pentatonic melodies - but the backing loop is a gentle, hypnotic conga beat. This, combined with the flutes give the track a breathy quality that recalls latter-day Radiohead.

But, despite feeling literate and carefully conceived, ‘Broken Politics’ never fully achieves lift-off. Some of this may come down to Cherry’s voice itself. Her mid-Atlantic drawl feels like it comes from another time in UK music: before garage, grime and drill established British accents having a clear identity away from its American influencers. But to criticise her for that feels churlish - astronauts like Cherry paved the way for a lot of people.  

Neneh Cherry Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 12 2019 - LEEDS Leeds University Union
Wed February 13 2019 - MANCHESTER Manchester Cathedral
Thu February 14 2019 - LONDON Roundhouse
Sat February 16 2019 - DUBLIN Academy
Sun February 17 2019 - BRISTOL SWX Bristol

Click here to compare & buy Neneh Cherry Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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