The last time you listened to Neneh Cherry, probably both you and she had at least one piece of neon spandex in your wardrobe. If you do remember when “Buffalo Stance” was on the radio though, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that The Cherry Thing features none of the euro-pop grooves that Cherry so embraced in the late 80’s. Her voice however, is still as sultry as ever and it finds ideal bunk-mates with the modern jazz masters of re-definition, The Thing.
With dark-souled covers of tunes by everyone from MF Doom to The Stooges, the Nordic trio locks so perfectly into an eerie pocket with Cherry on The Cherry Thing that it makes their previous releases sound half-empty. Opening track “Cashback,” a Cherry original, kicks in with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten thumping his bass with ferocity equal to the difficulty of pronouncing his name, and he remains relentless throughout. When the vocals drop, you get the feeling as if you’ve found some forgotten soul-vinyl in a dungy basement – at times Neneh’s near-rasp sounds like a higher-pitched Billie Holiday. And as obscure as some of the covers may seem, the formula works perfect for all of them. The electro-pop of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” takes a slanky turn down a late night New Orleans alley. The funky swagger of The Stooges’ “Dirt” takes on a far more threatening vibe, like a giant gorilla lumbering around the corner. Doom’s “Accordion” could be mistaken for a lost Gil Scott-Heron track if there wasn’t the telltale verse name-checking Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
The requisite Don Cherry cut is anything and everything but forced, (Cherry was Neneh’s father and The Thing named themselves after one of his songs.) Papa’s track “Golden Heart” drifts off in a hypnotic cycle as his daughter’s voice becomes increasingly more macabre and distant, like she’s heading into the light with Carol Anne from Poltergeist. The spooky ambiance coupled with a warming sense of romanticized opiates give all of The Cherry Thing a vibe like you’re at a jazz-club in late 50’s Cairo – there’s a uncertain danger to this music, and the looming menace wraps these songs in a tangible flesh. Let’s just hope we don’t’ have to wait another 16 years before Cherry breathes life into her next project.
Tags: Adam King, Neneh Cherry, Neneh Cherry & The Thing, Reviews, The Cherry Thing Album Review, The Thing