It’s fitting that Swedish free jazzers The Thing, a band named after a composition by Don Cherry, have now collaborated with his stepdaugher Neneh Cherry. For those who only know Neneh for “Buffalo Stance” and other late ’80s/early ’90s pop hits, some background is needed. In the early ’80s, she was a member of both The Slits and later Rip, Rig and Panic, so her original background is in Bristol-based post-punk. On 1989’s Raw Like Sushi, an album that was in part produced by future members of Massive Attack, the song “Manchild” basically prefigures the Bristol-led trip-hop of a few years later (not only Massive Attack’s material but others like Tricky and Portishead‘s earlier material as well). In other words, she’s done much more than any misguided one-hit wonder tag would have one believe.
That means that in her capable hands, versions of classics by Suicide (“Dream Baby Dream”) and especially The Stooges‘ “Dirt” come off way better than they have any right being. And let’s not forget the band’s backing, led by the excellent, skronking and squealing saxophone of Mats Gustafsson (who was collaborated with Thurston Moore and many other musicians as well) that just make this material shake, rattle and roll (not to mention that Gustafsson’s sax playing on “Dirt” sounds so primal and evocative of Steve Mackay‘s lines on Fun House‘s other tracks that it feels like your speakers are shaking while listening). There are also songs by Martina-Topley Bird (once a collaborator of the aforementioned Tricky and a chameleon-like artist in her own right much like Neneh Cherry), Ornette Coleman (“What Reason”, one of his few compositions with lyrics) and Don Cherry’s “Golden Heart” alongside a few originals and all of it is excellent!