October 15, 2018 Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics (Album Review)
Art should have no boundaries and not always so easy to translate. Sweden’s Neneh Mariann Karlsson, better known as Neneh Cherry, has built her path creating music that is unique to whatever the mainstream has ever offered. Nearly impossible to put in a box, socially conscience since her teenage years, Cherry’s approach to music has varied, thus making her a bit of a counter-culture Pop hero.
Sure, American audiences associate her name with her 1989 debut album, Raw Like Sushi, and even more so with the chart-topping hit “Buffalo Stance,” but Cherry has not relied on commercial approval to keep her career going. Different, and proud of it, she has continued to produce unique music – from 1992’s Homebrew to her 2014 album, Blank Project. Working within her own parameters, she has also been a part of the band CirKus since the mid 2000s, lent her talents to other artists through years, and now she returns with her new solo album, Broken Politics, on Friday, October 19, 2018.
Her fifth overall solo effort, Broken Politics will be available through Smalltown Supersound via Awal Recordings and was produced completely by England’s Four Tet. Additionally, the artwork of Broken Politics is done by the Turner Prize winning Wolfgang Tillmans, an important documentarian of London and Berlin’s club and gay scenes. All important factors that embody the look, feel, and purpose of Broken Politics, for listeners, the journey may be non-linear, but extraordinarily compelling.
Complete with twelve tracks, the album is not a standard listening experience. For one, the approach musically does not really fit into any category. There are elements of Hip Hop, Pop, Jazz, and Electronic. Then there is the minimalist approach used on much of the album featuring moments where gentle sounds dance around Cherry’s voice with near silence in the distance. An experimental, boundary pushing style, Cherry’s Broken Politics may not engulf the average listeners right away, but those who are open enough to give it a try, prepare to get hooked.
It all starts subtly with a somber track called “Fallen Leaves.” Acting as the table setting for the rest of the record, it is tranquil, but most importantly self-reflective lyrically. This continues with the single “Kong,” a poetic commentary on the sad state of the world and a look at where we are headed. Bleak in context, it is also vital to understand that while there is a political message embedded in this and much of the rest of the record, these are personal feelings, from a personal perspective. Cherry does not shove any particular agenda down your throat, telling you who is wrong and who is right. She more or less is saying, she like many, have no solution, yet they have thoughts on the whirlwind of chaos spinning out of control.
In this sense, Broken Politics almost feels like a slow-moving ride through Cherry’s inner-mind, what you get out of it all is up to you. That is why interludes such as “Poem Daddy” fit nicely in between darkly beautiful songs such as “Synchronised Devotion” and smoothly atmospheric “Deep Vein Thrombosis.” Like all of us, the emotions of Cherry peak and dip, hence the obscurity of “Faster Than The Truth” complete with war-like drum opening, spacey tones, and off-beat stream of consciousness lyrically attack.
Continuing to take you deep down the rabbit hole, Cherry shares hidden treasure with “Natural Skin Deep,” perhaps the most accessible and dazzling song of the album. Trippy, catchy, and irresistible, this, and album closer “Solider,” mark the high points of the Broken Politics writing sessions. The drama and emotion does not begin and stop there though, because the newest single, “Shot Gun Shack,” looking at the violence surround us, the ambient “Black Monday,” and an orgy of sound on “Slow Release” will equally stimulate your mind, but only if you leave the door open.
Overall, Neneh Cherry’s Broken Politics is impossible to describe in words other than simply saying it is unique to anything out there right now. Avant garde, and non-calculated, it is a self-reflective exploration that dares you to explore your own personal thoughts. That is why CrypticRock gives Broken Politics 4.5 out of 5 stars.