I can’t believe I missed out on Neneh Cherry Raw Like Sushi first time around, all the way back in 1989; I only picked it up 10 years ago, like some Johnny-come-lately no-mark.

Raw Like Sushi is a fascinating melange of hip-hop, electro, soul and dance.  It somehow manages to sound exactly the way Neneh Cherry does on the cover – defiant, sexy, tough, feminine and cool all at once.  I love that picture because she looks far more like she’s about to do a big dance workout than any sexy sex stuff, the way that most young women seem to get marketed then and now.  It was a big LP over here, I remember ‘Buffalo Stance’ and ‘Manchild’ being played out a lot, but they never quite registered fully with me, which was my loss.

Nothing seems to age quicker than 80s/90s dance music, it was all too dependent on that week’s tricks and flips.  I’ve replayed some tunes I remember dancing to and liking a lot back then and musically it just doesn’t stack up anymore, the nostalgia’s the only value it has left.  Raw Like Sushi has some clattering electro-style beats that any ardent hip-hopologist can date within a 6-month period, but it has so much more than that, a real spirit and feel.  Chuck in some great tunes and you have something special.  So it is very much an LP of its time but it is much more than that too.

Nobody needs me to bang on about Neneh Cherry’s unusual background and musical roots, so I shan’t, for once.  She fetched up in Bristol with hubby Cameron McVey (aka Booga Bear) and they tapped into all the nascent talent of that city’s fertile music scene, several future members of Massive Attack feature on Raw Like Sushi*, as well as Tim Simenon** and all make their mark on this here platter.  There are a whole raft of various producers and arrangers in the mix too and it has the feel of a big, joyous collaboration because Neneh Cherry’s personality binds it all together so strongly into a focused whole.

My highlights:

  • Buffalo Stance:   ‘No moneyman can win my love / It’s sweetness that I’m thinking of”.  The sweetness of her vocals over the electro clatter of the beats just ticks all the boxes. Tune!
  • Kisses on the Wind:   A sassy growing up tale, that deals with puberty and actually sounds like New York.  The Hispanic vocals on it are brilliant.
  • The Next Generation:   A knowing rap about motherhood and the perils of too much promiscuity, I love its’ admonishment to guys ‘To be strong and to love us like through thick and thin with your heart and your soul, not the size of your dick’. 
  • So Here I Come:   Yet another sassy, funky growing up tale, with a message of independence and healthy lust, plus the least subtle play on the word ‘come’ this side of David Coverdale.

What draws me into Raw Like Sushi today is the real feminine strength of it all.  Flash boys and crimnals get dissed for trying to act all cool and predatory, as do all the women who cheat and lie to their sisters; sex is very much to be enjoyed but only when it’s right to do so, promiscuity for its own sake is dismissed as disempowering and limiting.  If Raw Like Sushi has a message it is strength: strength through femininity, strength through motherhood, strength through sisterhood and strength through independence^*.  As the father of a teenage daughter, this is a message I can wholheartedly get behind*^.

If I was looking to make comparisons to anyone else’s sound the closest I could come is to say I hear Prince’s influence permeating the album, certain phrasing and keyboards, especially on the sex-plosion of ‘Outré Risqué Locomotive’^, which just has those NPG chord clashes going on.  Other than that I really couldn’t say this sounds like anyone else then, or now and that’s a really great thing to be able to write and what makes Raw Like Sushi such a gem.

No moneyman can win my love
It’s sweetness that I’m thinking of.
We always hang in a Buffalo Stance
We do the dive every time we dance
I’ll give you love baby not romance
I’ll make a move nothing left to chance
So don’t you get fresh with me

Amen.  Now how exactly do I stand like a buffalo?

769 Down.

PS. Whilst the music still sounds fresh the videos at the time have aged horribly.  This is by far the besat of them:

*their incredible debut LP Blue Lines was partially recorded and produced in their back room.

**1537 fave Bomb the Bass.

^*not that the LP is remotely preachy, there’s far too much joie de vivre going on for that.

*^on Father’s day, no less.  Goddamn I’m topical!

^an ode to marital woogie-woogie no less.

20 thoughts on “Awe Like Sushi

  1. I’ll be honest, aside from Buffalo Stance and 7 Seconds I’m not too familiar with her stuff. Always kinda thought it wouldn’t really appeal to me at all. I might be wrong… I’m incredibly tempted to go on Discogs. Why do you do this to me… ?

  2. I remember being pretty smitten with Neneh Cherry back in high school. There was something dangerous about her. I don’t really remember her music, so I think I may have to revisit this one.

    Who can forget her brother, Eagle Eye Cherry? Me, that’s who.

  3. Huge teenage crush for me. Gimme Buffalo Stance anyday, I grew up in Buffalo NY so that song took on a unique meaning for us and got a lot of play just because of the title…the rest of the album was good too, but yeah, very much of the time. That being said, she always managed to stay unique and refreshing and really, if you haven’t already, go out and find her most recent albums and have your mind really blown! Specifically her album with The Thing (2012)
    This one from 2014 is also excellent:
    Her recent work is vital and way overlooked and blows that old stuff away (although I missed her 90’s albums).
    Happy hunting!

    1. Ahh, I was thinking of the big quadroped not the place – do you Buffalonians stand differently from the rest of us then?!

      I have heard The Thing one and was really impressed by it, the rest are a mystery to me and are on the list.

      A friend of mine photographed her about 10 years ago and said she was really nice and really grounded – which isn’t always the case.

      1. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t referring to Buffalo NY in that song but we adopted it anyway. She always seemed like one of those rare artists who are realy down to earth and true to herself and her art…I’ll take one of her and/or a Sade over any of those vapid r&b divas anyday.

      2. Well, I haven’t intentionally listened to her music since the late 80’s early 90’s but I still think she was a great example of an artist who always kept her ego in check, never got greedy, had smart business people around her, got in, said her piece and left it at that. I only wish more artists took her lead in that regard.

  4. I had this album on cassette! I loved Buffalo Stance. She really was doing something a little different. And you’re right about the lyrics…topical with some lessons about love and relationships. Those videos were never good.

    1. Really please you liked it, there are some good messages in here for girls and boys of a certain age. Plus, its a great LP to dad dance to all the way through.

  5. What an excellent example of the 1537 take on things. Enjoyed this a lot, Joe, despite not knowing the music. And I really loved the timing too. Done a bit of that fathery stuff meself today.

    1. Thanks Bruce, the timing was entirely accidental but I really liked what Ms Cherry had to say to/for girls of a certain age. Highly commendable stuff when you see some of the influences out there.

  6. Great review Joe – I really like that line about her performance sounding like the cover.
    I’m in agreement about the album, of its time musically to be sure, but I always like when it’s a strong performer sharing a message worth hearing, as is the case here.

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