PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Neneh Cherry Teams Up with Four Tet for 'Broken Politics'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Neneh Cherry only emerges when she has something to say, granting an artistic purity to every release. Given these times, Cherry has a lot to say on Broken Politics.

Broken Politics
Neneh Cherry

Smalltown Supersound

19 October 2018

Neneh Cherry only emerges when she has something to say, granting an artistic purity to every release. Previous album Blank Project was an intensely personal album. Songs like "Across the Water" found her grieving for her recently deceased mother and "Spit Three Times" addressed her battles with depression and her fears for the future. Unsurprisingly, considering the title, Broken Politics sees Cherry cast her gaze further afield as she tackles various dominate political issues such as abortion, the refugee crisis, gun control, and the prevalence of disinformation and fake news.

Nevertheless, things are never really that simple. Throughout her career, Cherry has never been one to beat the listener over the head with her polemic, always carefully choosing when to take a stance and stand up for her convictions. Broken Politics is no different. The wider socio-political lyrics are woven into the more personal, reflective ones meaning that, in a sense, the whole album feels like delving into her very personal thoughts on the world and how they directly affect her.

Musically, the biggest difference from Blank Project is the absence of drumming from Rocketnumbernine's Tom Page. However, once again, baring a couple of guest appearances, Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) returns and is this time responsible for all of the music on the album. Building songs from an enormous library of sounds, his deftly layered musical backing highlights his uncanny ability to make each track sound as if it is played by a consummate session band.

The music for Broken Politics was written at the same time as Four Tet's New Energy album and it shares a similar aesthetic. Album opener "Fallen Leaves" features the same ambient electronics and muffled, hammered dulcimer as "Two Thousand and Seventeen", from that album, and serves as the perfect reintroduction to Cherry's voice. Here sounding clearer than ever, it has lost none of its ability to move as her words dance around Hebden's melodies.

"Kong" rides a thick, dub bassline like the roll of distant thunder courtesy of Massive Attack's 3D. Cherry sounds genuinely hurt and betrayed by the unfulfilled political promises of the past ("I'm a member of shattered allusions") and seemingly caught in a cycle of hope and despair. ("And goddamn guns and guts and history / And bitter love still put a hole in me"). On "Synchronised Devotion", Cherry leaves no doubt that this is her in outspoken, combative mood but in her own distinct way with the line, "It's my politics living in a slow jam", over understated jazz piano and xylophone.

The loose, jam approach also runs through "Deep Vein Thrombosis". Over a cool electro-jazz backing, Cherry recalls her slam poetry days delivering her lyrics with a similar rhythm and bite. The more overtly political, "Faster Than the Truth" shows off Cherry's customary ability to deliver a succinct and profound statement with the line "lies travel faster than the truth" as she takes down the spread of disinformation in the modern world. Musically, the song demonstrates the power of doing less with more as her vocals sit on top of marching, military-style drums. Initially sounding like two barely linked demos, Hebdon clever uses a gliding piano run to sew the parts together.

Opening with a blast of an air horn, "Natural Skin Deep" is the most obvious dancefloor-ready song on the album. Featuring a stampeding rhythm, steel drums, and sonic blasts it gives the album a little shake when it needs it most. The contemporary hip-hop of "Shock Gun Shack" finds Cherry drawing strength from the March for Our Lives, pro-gun control campaign that saw thousands march in cities across America. With gentle strings and xylophone-like a cool breath of wind, "Black Monday" sees Cherry advocate for pro-choice with lines like, "I wanna choose my own day" and "Isn't that my right / When to breathe to my own guilt."

"Slow Release" finds Hebden teasing out melodies with the lightest of touches as he wraps unhurried flute around a steady drum beat. The measured pace of the song makes the deep house chords that shatter the mood all the more surprising. With a flurry of cascading notes and a crunchy rhythm, album closer, "Soldier", is a warning to respect women's rights ("You're all over me / Respect me / Or then this is it"). As with the rest of the statements on the album, Cherry refuses to shout, rather letting the power of the words weave themselves into the subconscious.

As a follow up to, what at the time, felt like a highly experimental, leftfield album for Cherry in Blank Project, Broken Politics is far less of a shock to the system. It is a more even-paced, leaner affair with Hebden showing his ability to create subtly shaded melodic gems that allow Cherry's voice and lyrics to shine. In turn, Cherry turns out vocal hook lines emboldened by the intricate music behind her.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.