Give it a try if… You are not afraid to look deep into your, or another person’s soul.
Steer clear if… You classify anyone who dares express their anger and sorrow as a whiner.
As my extended absence from Barcelona draws to a close, I realize there must be something else to think and talk about rather than skiing, right… Right? Well, luckily there is: Sinéad O’Connor’s latest album. A most welcome and accomplished comeback.
Sisters in Arms
Intrigued by the sticker which heralded “The debut album by a real breakthrough artist”, I bought the “Lion and the Cobra” audio cassette, put it in my Walkman and found out that definitely wasn’t a marketing trick. It was 1987. Since then I have followed Sinéad’s tortuous path with unshakeable affection – even more so after discovering she and I share a few creepy details from our infancy, and the heavy baggage that goes with them. Although this has certainly given me a different perspective on the (even recent) provocations which many others have been so quick to censure – thank god for the right to act out, you don’t like it? Well, sue us! – it has not prevented me from recognizing the unevenness of her artistic output: one more reason to celebrate this compelling new record.
Indie Dummies, Beware
Starting from its title (reminiscent of the inspiring Gestalt prayer), “How about I Be Me (and You Be You)?” engages for its uncompromising honesty: it takes our Irish heroine less than 45 minutes to sweep away all contemporary indie plastic, reminding us how powerful music can be when you have got something to say other than “Aren’t we cool?”. The tracklist alternates sunshine and shadows, like the tongue-in-cheek opener “4th and Vine” and the following “Reason with Me” – a song that, if it resonates in any way, might easily trigger a sobbing fit.
Revenge At Last
Remember when several years ago, everyone commented that Sinéad had “annihilated her own career” when she “foolishly” tore up that picture on American TV? Well, it turns out she was not such a fool after all, was she. Now that in her own country and many others there are no more of such pictures left to tear up, she can take due revenge in the anthemic “Take off Your Shoes”. As she sings “Behold, I’m the last lamplight/ At the very end of your street”, finding the same visceral pitch as in that groundbreaking first album, shivers must be running down a few starched spines. At last.
Highlights and Downlights
Other highlights include the intense “I Had a Baby” – about a woman who has a child from the wrong guy because, as she desperately cries, “I was always crazy” – and another revenge song, a wonderful cover of the witty “Queen of Denmark” by John Grant (a musician that suddenly everyone seems to like; unfortunately I can’t help seeing him as a less flamboyant version of Rufus Wainwright). Even the Bono-slashing “VIP”, despite its musical flatness, displays Sinéad at her self-righteous best. Some other tracks, like “Very Far from Home” or the radio-friendly single “The Wolf Is Getting Married”, are less convincing. When she overdoes the simplicity and straightforwardness which otherwise beautify this album, Sinéad can write lines like “Even when something terrible is happening/ You laugh and that’s the thing I love most about you” and intone them as if she was singing, er, a catholic youth’s hymn. Still, there is enough richness and complexity in this album to satisfy any listener eager for something more than popcorn tunes. Way to go, Sinéad.
UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 8/10 + wow!