It's hard to believe it has been 20 years since Sinead O'Connor released her masterpiece, The Lion and the Cobra
, which stands as one of the greatest debut albums ever. If ever there was a "celebrity" who should write an autobiography, it's O'Connor. From her rough, abusive upbringing to her thrust into the spotlight (and shove right back out) to her ongoing quest for spiritual peace, O'Connor could write a book that's one part Frank McCourt, one part Almost Famous
, one part The Rose
and one part William Blake.
O'Connor got Dixie Chicked, of course, before the Dixie Chicks could pluck a string -- she never really recovered, from a commercial standpoint, from the public outrage and backlash over her appearance on Saturday Night Live
(where she tore a photo of the then-Pope). The controversy seems even sillier now, especially since the statement she was making by tearing the photo was that Catholic leaders were turning a blind eye to child abuse, including abuse of a sexual nature. Uh, nailed that one, huh? Perhaps sadder than having her career interfered with is the fact that O'Connor has never received proper credit for her influence on other artists. Sinead's new album is called Theology
and, while there are lyrics about her continuing spiritual journey (she's deeply explored Jah Rastafari in the past couple of years) and she uses overt language, with many songs about The Bible, it's not a preachy record. But it is a pretty one. The album is two discs; Disc One is quieter, coffeehouse versions of the same songs that get a fuller, Peter Gabriel-like makeover on Disc Two. Though she's gone pretty deep into the "mature" phase of her career, it's hard to deny that Sinead remains a strong songwriter and even stronger poetess. Disc One shows the songs' guts nakedly, while the second one is beat-driven and, though "bigger," still pretty sparse and hovering. Starbucks will probably sell it, if that gives you an idea of what it sounds like (a little snoozy and overly "polite," but it's soothing and makes you wanna spend $5 for a cup of coffee). (Mike Breen) Grade: B