Essential New Music: Neneh Cherry’s “Broken Politics”

Nearly 30 years (!?) after the ping-ponging pop-hop of Raw Like Sushi and its global hit, “Buffalo Stance,” Neneh Chery has found a fashion in which to maintain the ebullience of that youthful debut—and aging that torrid pop tone gracefully—while honing in on the socio-political now with deeply personal lyrics and a pulsing, spacey score provided by producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet).

With that, Broken Politics is no easy listen by half. Between Hebden’s fussy jeepy beats and aggressive collage tones and Cherry’s tossed-in-the-air wordplay landing on all things socio-rhetorical (“Deep Vein Thrombosis” lines such as “how fragile is a life that can have everything now, too”), there’s a tension behind a great portion of the new album, a friction in sound and Cherry’s vision of an uneasy world. On “Kong,” Massive Attack’s 3D brings the low bass-y grumble of his one-time syn-sub ensemble to bear on Cherry’s icy arrangements while she hoots and scowls about “ guns and guts and history.”

That doesn’t mean or make the rapper/singer into Kafka, and Broken Politics into an existential mess. With its joyful noisy Ornette Coleman plastic-sax sample and its Jamaican steel-drum loop, “Natural Skin Deep,” gives Cherry a big bouncy way into a stray, gleeful hook, one where she intones, “My love goes on and on,” as a release. Like someone winning a tug of war, exhausted by the push-and-pull, Broken Politics feels like a deep breath after a long, tense struggle.

—A.D. Amorosi