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

“Buffalo Stance” hitmaker returns, going deep on a set with beat guru Four Tet and jazz swami Karl Berger.

Neneh Cherry performs at Village Underground on September 12, 2018 in London.

Neneh Cherry performs at Village Underground on September 12, 2018 in London.

Joseph Okpako/WireImage

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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