Neneh Cherry’s fourth studio release Blank Project continues to have resonance in today’s political climate. David Wilkinson listens again.
We did not have to wait long in 2014 before being graced with one of the standout albums of the year. Largely positive reviews of Neneh Cherry’s first solo material for 18 years have usually portrayed it as a ‘personal’ record. Cherry herself has stated that her return to releasing music that began with 2012’s avant-jazz covers collaboration The Cherry Thing was a cathartic response to the death of her mother. Blank Project, furthermore, is baldly, boldly frank about the supercharged emotions and difficulties of coupledom and motherhood.
However, one of the many captivating aspects of this album is how well it captures a feeling, intimately connected to the times we’re living through, shared by more and more people now. As hopes and chances of security in employment, romance, domestic arrangements and even basic human rights recede ever further for what’s becoming known as the ‘precariat‘, one song title on Blank Project that seems to particularly encapsulate the collective mood is ‘Weightless’. The combined talents of musical duo RocketNumberNine and producer Kieran Hebden kick it off with a sound that suggests being fired out of a cannon and finding yourself flailing in mid-air. Just at the moment when vertigo is starting to set in, you’re locked into a tight, dirty synth and drum combo. Its shadowboxing repetition perfectly complements Cherry’s evocations of putting your all into clinging to the merry-go-round as it spins ever faster, threatening to hurl you off: “Moving in circles, but I’m wasting away…”
Cover of Blank Project. This shows a slightly over-exposed left-facing profile shot of Neneh Cherry against a greyish background. She is wearing a white top with a glittery stripy patch on her left shoulder and her left hand is raised up to that side of her face. “Neneh Cherry” is written in white at the top. There is a round blue sticker in the top right corner with the following written on it in white: “THE NEW SOLO ALBUM, PRODUCED BY KIERAN HEBDEN, INCLUDES ‘OUT OF THE BLACK (FEAT ROBYN), *VINYL INCLUDES CD*.”