Neneh Cherry ripe for a comeback

Jan 29, 2015

Still smokin’ ... Neneh Cherry is enjoying her 16th minute as she heads here to tour Aust

Still smokin’ ... Neneh Cherry is enjoying her 16th minute as she heads here to tour Australia. Source: Supplied

BUDDY my friend, Neneh Cherry has been away for a looong time.

Not as long as you’d think, perhaps, the singer has surfaced periodically after her breakthrough single Buffalo Stance in 1989 from the album Raw Like Sushi.

She had a few more hits with Manchild, Buddy X (snap), Trout feat. Michael Stipe), 7 Seconds, featuring Youssou N’Dour and even did a six part cooking show in 2007 on BBC Two called Neneh and Andi – Dish it Up.

But this is definitely a comeback. Her 16th minute.

Unlike Billy Corgan, the 50 year old’s relationship to her hit songs is healthy. They did buy her a house after all.

Little known fact, Buffalo Stance’s success allowed her to help bankroll Massive Attack, Blue Lines era, something she should get more credit for. The band elevated from Rizla-dozers to razzle-dazzlers, trip hop’s still reigning heavyweight champions.

“A song like Manchild, I think we’re the best of friends. They’re great presents. God knows how they happened,” she guffaws from her home in Stockholm’s Mariatorget district, not a dingy East London squat as you may naively imagine, stuck in the ‘89 time capsule.

High fives ... Neneh Cherry has put her hand up to tour Australia. Picture: Supplied

High fives ... Neneh Cherry has put her hand up to tour Australia. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

“Those early songs always have great importance. They’re gems. The set I’m playing is mainly new tunes. I can’t do karaoke stuff,” she says. She still includes her biggies though.

Buffalo Stance still feels pretty amazing. Literally young kids and people who are older, everyone freaks out about it. I don’t use it as a lifeline in the set. I need to look forward all the time.”

Cherry knows if you’re not on the edge, well, you’re taking up too much room. The new tunes she speaks of are from Blank Project, the jabbing funk and drums and experimental blips and blops album she did with Four Tet (Kieran Hebden), RocketNumberNine and her hub-a-dub Cameron McVey.

Her husband helped write six songs on Blank Project while they sat on the couch and tag-teamed parental responsibilities.

“The kids would come piling in, we’re in the middle of something and in they come wanting dinner,” she grumbles good-heartedly.

Don’t think parenthood = Cherry’s gone soft.

One cut, Weightless, has the best line about masturbation you’ll hear in a while.

“Take the red carpet but it takes too long, see my voice on the Dictaphone, service myself when I’m all alone.” And this one from the title-track “I’ve got a man, I love him so much, sometimes I hate him, just can’t let go.”

Blank Project - Neneh Cherry

Keen collaborators RocketNumberNine are named after a Sun Ra track. They’re the Page Brothers, Ben and Tom and along with Robyn (we’ll get to her) they found the kernels of the album and toasted them up.

Obsessive compulsive paean “Spit Three Times was quite an important one to get down. In fact I had all the songs but when I was with RocketNumberNine — of course they came into the picture late — we started messing with the sounds …and all of a sudden I was kind of allergic to doing the obvious thing, so we worked much faster than usual,” she says.

Cherry often uses the allergic line, it’s one reason she’s been off the grid for so long.

“It’s a much faster way to work, we did things in like ten minutes, RocketNumberNine sampled my voice and the sample was bleeding into the song and that’s how it happened,” Cherry explains.

Supplied Editorial Embargoed until 9/10/14. Womadelaide 2015 Neneh Cherry. Picture: Supplied

Frizz with frisson ... Neneh Cherry. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The record has timid, insular moments, rickety percussive tracks, meatier songs and a psycho, organ-grinder called Naked that recalls Radiohead’s frantic Myxomatosis.

“It wasn’t so much about switching style, it’s about trying to be in the place where we function creatively and naturally,” she says, the quote not nearly as pretentious as it looks on paper.

“It was a very freeing way to work. It’s important that we captured the story and the true energy of the music if that makes sense. For me it’s all about the places I’ve come from, turning the spirit into songs, trying to find new forms of expressing the same thing.”

The record has the spatial awareness of Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard on the drive.

Cherry draws strength from the empty air. “It’s powerful. This record is an outlet for so many things I can’t express in conversation.”

Out of the Black - Neneh Cherry and Robyn

Out of the Black featuring Robyn sounds like an army tank piloted by two Riot Grrls who’ve just discovered synths and single malt whiskey.

“I had food poisoning that day. I was puking every ten minutes. I’d eaten rather bad chicken. Every now and then I’d record a verse. Cam was writing and doing the guide vocals. I’d get up and sing the guide vocal then go off to puke again,” she says.

“Robyn and I have a strong private connection. She’s amazing and creative. That was the one person that I thought should be on it. Actually on Out of the Black we were struggling with the song. Kieran was the one who suggested Robyn do the chorus,” she recalls.

In the hodgepodge, Buffalo Stance-esque clip Cherry wears a towel on her head.

“The towel? That’s become my trademark. Nearly every day I do it. I ended up using a towel in lots of the press pictures. I turned up to the studio shoot and Robyn was like ‘Keep the towel on!’”

Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound/Balance) is out now.

Chevron Festival Gardens, Perth Festival, Feb 28,;

Hamer Hall, the Arts Centre. March 6.; Golden Plains, March 7. Sold out.; Unley, WOMADelaide, March 8,; Sydney Opera House, Sydney Festival, March 11,

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