Carrie & Lowell
The genuine confessional artist is a rare creature indeed.
Most singer-songwriters who affect to be baring their souls over strummed chords are generally holding back. Their tales of love, loss and heartbreak are generic: the red-raw heart on the sleeve that they purport to be displaying is a neatly sketched stencil.
Sinead O’Connor has no truck with such artifice. Her music truly is a window to her soul: and what a soul it is.
Twenty-seven years after her debut, O’Connor’s ninth studio album is business as usual: that is to say, a brooding, circular interior monologue, an angst-ridden odyssey, set to alternately sweet and serrated guitar riffs and keyboard jags. It is the only way she knows how.
Her concerns vary little, and she returns to them like a dog with a bone. This time around, Take Me To Church, the lead single and the best track on the record, once again tackles her troubled and contradictory relationship with organised religion; Harbour seems to be written from the perspective of a victim of child abuse, another consistent Sinead soapbox theme.
Yet the album’s main theme, overwhelmingly, is love, and her quest for it. The Voice of her Doctor finds her seething after being tricked into bed by a married man; on 8 Good Reasons, she contemplates a lonely suicide; Kisses Like Mine is a wallow in fiercely black humour (“I’m special forces, they call me in after divorces”).
Most of these homilies, diatribes and reveries are delivered over visceral, serrated riffs that jab like a finger in your solar plexus, constantly challenging and confronting. By contrast, the closing track, Streetcars, is a beautiful wracked ballad that sees her beat a retreat from love’s battlefield: “There is no safety to be acquired, riding streetcars named desire.”
As ever with Sinead O’Connor, I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss is a difficult, demanding, frequently draining album. There is every chance that you will admire it hugely while never wanting to play it again.