Tuesday, 5 February 2013

SINEAD O'CONNOR

Live Review

How About I Be Me (you be you) ?

I know Ms O'Connor is not strictly folk music but I am a great fan and regardless of what you think about her or how she has lived her life, in my humble opinion, she still has one of the best voices ever.

Her new album How About I Be Me... is not for the faint-hearted. It's hard to tell whether she is trying to again be controversial or whether this album is a genuinely cathartic offering, as so often with life the truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in between.
This album though, is vintage O'Connor and in some ways it sounds like she has never been away even though it's been five years since Theology. All the tracks are written by her in collaboration with various artists except for John Grant's Queen Of Denmark.
The opening 4th And Vine, which will be released as a single later this month, catches you off guard with its bhangra sound and continued rhythm. Through mountainous beats she tries to convince the listener her latest marriage was a wonderful experience. However, from the opening bars you know it's O'Connor singing like there has been no gap in her career at all. There are strange linguistic twists in the lyrics which seem to be appealing to the US market with lines such as "not that he's no wuss, because you know his love is serious". For all that, it's a great opening track because it almost defies you to not to tap your fingers or feet and the lyrics are so simple and catchy you could learn them from one listening.
Reason With Me, leaves the jollity of the opening track behind moving into darker themes of addiction and lost love, it could easily be called Nothing Compares 2 U (part two). Her breathy voice sounds like a cry from the wilderness, a desperate plea for help girded by the haunting undertones of the piano and coloured by the church-like gospel organ harmony used perfectly by Julian Wilson.
The theme of searching for love, of shunning loneliness and of wanting to share your life and experiences continues in Old Lady and although it has an upbeat tempo it is still bleakly singing of uncertainty.
Sinead O'Connor who is back on tour
 - picture courtesy of  www.sineadoconnor.com
As you would expect, religion would be part of any album O'Connor produces and this is no exception with the first offering being Take Off Your Shoes where she seems to be taking on the persona of god, although in whose incarnation it's not clear, to point out the weaknesses of humanity. The strength of her voice comes through on this track and the anger is obvious, shored up by a throbbing backbeat which keeps you on the edge waiting for something more to happen as it slopes into The Exorcist-style theme.
Back Where You Belong sounds very much like an anti-war song with it's military drumming opening which is carried in the background.
As O'Connor's lyrics come in over the top we are back again to the theme of those you love leaving you. In this track she conveys real emotion and longing in her voice as it trails off on each line of the chorus.
The idea of never being sure where you are or where you are going, of not having someone to keep you grounded seems to come through on The Wolf Is Getting Married where O'Connor is defining herself by those around her. This is probably the most positive song on the album and has a much rockier feel to it with the prominence of Kevin Armstrong and Tim Vanderkuil on guitars coming through loud and clear.
John Grant - picture courtesy of www.johngrantmusic.com
John Grant's Queen Of Denmark is a brutally honest track which should not be listened to when there are children about.
O'Connor's voice is perfectly suited to convey the bleakness and dangers of love which this track offers.
Returning the favour O'Connor has supplied backing vocals on Grant's Pale Green Ghosts album due out in March.
The theme of being emotionally lost comes through again on Very Far From Home. The voice which made O'Connor such a phenomenon is back in full flight for this track. With very little accompaniment that deep creaminess of her voice, which oozes the emotional range most of us can only guess at, comes over as perfect as the first time she captured everyone's hearts with her raw feelings back in 1990.
In I Had A Baby O'Connor is seemingly extolling her one proud achievement, that of having a child. It's clear from lyrics such as "He's been the makings of me" that her children changed her life forever and the Pink Floyd-style interjections, not the best of groups to mention I realise, as she at one stage intended to kick the shit out of Roger Waters, give it a slightly eerie feeling although that seems the last thing intended.
We are back to religion again with the last track and the big question of What Is A Real VIP? which is a finger-pointing, conscience-pricking song about both our attitudes towards our neighbours locally and globally. The almost a Capella track also asks the big question about what are we going to do when judgement day comes.
Something tells me this album is going to polarise people, it could be seen as self indulgent, cathartic, pseudo-controversial but whatever it makes you feel, O'Connor is a fantastic talent with an incredible voice. It's a real shame her tumultuous life and personal torment has got in the way of her singing career, but let's hope this album is a sign she is back on track.
How About I Be Me... is out on the One Little Indian label www.indian.co.uk