Sinéad O’Connor

Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 00:00

How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?One Little Indian ****

“Let me create something other than trouble,” Sinéad O’Connor sings on Very Far from Home, and on this, her ninth album (and first in five years) she has created something that repositions her where she belongs: as a songwriter and vocalist of beguiling complexity.

Having long given up chasing the hit parade to plumb more rewarding musical and spiritual depths, O’Connor’s output has taken her down the odd cul-de-sac, but has also lead to some new creative heights as she continues a quest for music of real resonance.

There are different Sinéads on display here, veering from the vulnerable and humble to the strident and dominant. There are also lashings of self-deprecation and humour, as, over a variety of stylings, she treats the sacred and profane either with a knowing wink or a knee to the groin. There’s snap, crackle and pop aplenty on this tightly focused affair, easily her best work in a number of years.

Opener 4th and Vineis impossibly jaunty, delivered with a reggae bounce, but immediately afterwards O’Connor gets hushed and intimate with the oddly poignant Reason With Me,one of her most insightful works.

The voice remains in remarkable shape, whether she is wrapping it cosily around the slower tempo material or turning it up to 11 when the context demands. But it’s what she does with it here – the pacing and phrasing changing dramatically to dovetail with the lyrical material – that impresses most. Musically there are hip-hop beats, post-punk guitar lines and the odd flashback to 1980s synth-rock, but there’s no ornamentation as O’Connor gets to the core of each song from the off and keeps it all commendably taut.

The gorgeous (and confessional) Back Where You Belongwould make a great next single, while a cover of John Grant’s The Queen of Denmarkis quite something. The closing track, VIP– which has some connections, lyrically, with Bob Dylan on Slow Train Coming– is a statement song leavened with enough wit and mordant asides not to sound preachy.

A layered and nuanced album and something of a career highlight for O’Connor. sineadoconnor.com

Download tracks: Reason With Me, Old Lady, The Queen of Denmark, VIP