During my early teenage years, I hated Sinéad O’Connor, first for ripping a picture of the Pope, and then for dating Peter Gabriel (my platonic love at the time — you know, facts of being a teenager). But time marched on; I grew up, matured, and left, little by little, my childish and nonsensical fanaticisms (both religious and platonic) behind. Therefore, I gave Sinéad a chance.
The first album I bought from her was I Do Not What I Haven’t Got. I really loved the mellow yet contundent melodies that contrasted with angry lyrics (obvious influence of Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes). But her stunning voice was the greatest attraction in that record. Then, I decided to complete the collection (without becoming a very big fan, however).
The Lion and the Cobra’s brutal honesty and light experimentations made that album my favorite, while Am I Not Your Girl? was an ultra-sincere rendition of classic jazz themes in a decade devoted to sometimes hypocritical revisions and artists that made uninspired cover-albums just to keep the market’s eye on them. Universal Mother was a serious letdown, but still with good moments. And the Gospel Oak EP had all the conditions to be a good album but lacked in depth.
After these latter two releases, it was pretty normal that I was skeptical about Faith and Courage, Sinéad’s new music for 2000. God has been generous to me in giving me all the chances to listen to this album and write my final verdict. And I must confess I prefer to wait and buy her album in the used sections of my favourite CD store. I’ll admit, though, that Faith and Courage is a big improvement from the serious letdown that Sinéad’s career has been suffering lately. However (and echoing Alternative Press) the music did not have the same focus of the lyrics.
If, in Universal Mother and Gospel Oak, Sinead was walking in Kate Bush’s footprints, Faith and Courage finds Sinéad wandering in territories where Björk has been, and occasionally stopping by Beth Orton’s neighborhood from time to time. And that journey is made with the help of such wisely chosen producers as Brian Eno, ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart, and ex-Fugee Wyclef Jean. But some songs were either a bit overproduced or a bit too poppy for my taste.
A wonderful thing here, however, besides Sinéad’s emotional voice — which, I must say is at its top form in years! — are the lyrics. From biographical, yet non-confessional ones (like the out-of-the-closet hymn “No Man’s Woman” and “Daddy I’m Fine”) to religious ones (“The Lamb’s Book of Life” — probably a product of O’Connor’s ordination), these are among the best of O’Connor’s lyrics in a long time. She sounds confident yet sensible. But if she gets conscious of Faith and Courage’s strongest points and takes them to an edge next time, she will probably have her best album in years. It’s just a matter of hope.
Written by Pekky Marquez.