She’s got what she wants
I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss
Thirty years in the biz and Sinéad O’Connor is looking at the bigger picture: “I don’t write autobiographical songs any more, I write character songs”. Relieved of the intense introspection of her earlier works, O’Connor’s 10th studio album is leavened with flashes of humour and self-parody. She’s very much waving, not drowning.
Like Ray Davis before her, O’Connor has uncovered the paradoxical truth that writing about other people provides more searing insights into one’s own psyche. On the standout track, Eight Good Reasons, she sings, “I love to make music, but my head got wrecked by the business”. That sits neatly alongside a declaration on the current single, Take Me to Church: “I don’t wanna sing from where I sang before, I don’t wanna love the way I loved before”. It’s a moment of clarity.
The Opener, How About Me, is a wistful affair that prefaces the main action. On Kisses Like Mine, O’Connor playfully reverses the traditional gender roles. But on Your Green Jacket she sounds like an early 1960s girl group singing about melodramatic promises of undying love. The Vishnu Room’s sultry eroticism – “your breath, your nakedness, all your softness, and your hardness” – sounds like Molly Bloom’s soliloquy updated.
Take Me to Church is one of the best things O’Connor has ever written. This is the stern and serious young girl from Mandinka nearly three decades on (“I’ve done so many bad things it hurts”) resolving collateral damage issues and with the fire once again back in her belly.
The album closes with Streetcars, a solemn hymn wherein O’Connor realises that “there’s no safety to be acquired, riding streetcars named desire”. This is not an elegy for Blanche DuBois, but the resigned resolution of someone who has found perspective and context in her life.
With a voice more expressive and nuanced than it’s been in a long time and a whole new lyrical palette to play with, this is Sinéad O’Connor’s Farewell to Arms. The past has been bottled and labelled with love and a whole lot more besides. These really are songs of faith and courage. sineadoconnor.com Download: Take Me to Church, Your Green Jacket, Harbour, Streetcars