Sinead O'Connor: I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (Nettwerk/Southbound)

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Sinead O'Connor: The Vishnu Room
Sinead O'Connor: I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (Nettwerk/Southbound)

Too often in popular culture, controversy and craziness are substitutes for, or get in the way of us seeing, real talent. O'Connor has courted her share of both and that often blurred the focus of her. Strangeness still circles her private life, but this straightforward album – 12 well-arranged, emotionally and musically direct songs – finds her at top form on economic songs, only two breaking four minutes. The opener How About I Be Me – taking its title from her previous album, although this moving song didn't appear on it – speaks from a wounded heart: “Don't stop me talking 'bout love, I got to find what I'm dreaming of”.

And throughout these melodic and memorable songs she addresses relationships, and spiritual or secular passions crystallised in big things (“he makes me forget everything my mother warned” and “she is harbour and he has not harbour”), small detail “(Your smell came through, made me wish I had my face buried in you”) and quick images (“there's no safety to be acquired riding streetcars named desire”).

Matching these lyrics are songs which are pure pop (Dense Water Deeper Down), bristly rock (Kisses Like Mine, the arresting self-referencing Voice of My Doctor, the thrillingly visceral Harbour) and idiosyncratic pieces like the fleet-footed, sensual Afro-funk track James Brown with (Seun Kuti on sax).Most come with focused verses and choruses of the old style.

Take Me to Church (“but not the one that hurts because that ain't the truth”) is three minutes of empowerment.

If you've thought of her as a crazy, come back for this. She's rarely sounded so clear, spiritual and secular, forgiving and empowered, comfortable and confident in her skin.

Exceptional.  

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