I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss
It’s not easy being a Sinead O’Connor fan.
Part of the price of following the mercurial Irish singer is that you have to be, at best, willing to accept her musical wanderings.
As an example of the 47-year-old's adventurism, the past 15 years have seen her release a solid pop album (Faith and Courage in 2000), covers of traditional Irish folk songs (2002's Sean-Nós Nua), a reggae collection (2005's Throw Down Your Arms) and a set of spiritual waltz tunes (2007's Theology), before going back to the direct sincerity of her classic 1980s period with How About I Be Me (And You Be You) in 2012.
Strangely, another change of direction is not on display here with her latest release I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss. Her 10th album basically picks up where the previous one left off in that it's another collection of straightforward songs that are heavy on hooks.
The opener How About I Be Me – the title even pays homage to her previous release – has a sense of beginning. The gentle wash of keyboards recalls an image of a sunrise, before O'Connor arrives over a gentle digital drum beat to announce "I wanna be a real full woman".
The energy picks up steadily in the twangy Dense Water Deeper Down, the first of a handful of tracks showcasing I'm Not Bossy's bluesy and country flavours. O'Connor is positively charming here – she harmonises over herself and the track hits that sweet spot where melody and poignancy meet.
She turns rocker in Kisses Like Mine, the track reaching smouldering levels when she croaks "See, I'm special forces/They call me in after divorces/To lift you up" over gnarly riffs. The album's big winners are found in the second half.
Harbour may initially sound like a gentle piano-led lament, however it steadily builds to explode into a raging rocker – that moment when the guitars crash through and O'Connor's voice transforms from ache to roar is hair-raising stuff.
The afrobeat saxophonist Seun Kuti guests in the funky James Brown – which, ironically, sounds more like a tribute to the Bee Gees.
The single Take Me to Church would be a fine radio hit if the lyrics didn't sound like a fiery inner monologue.
The album ends in the solemn contemplation that is Street Cars – the glockenspiels chime as O'Connor comes to terms with love and vulnerability: "There's no safety to be acquired/riding streetcars named "desire'".
The hunger, the pain, the passion is all here. Nearly 30 years on, O’Connor is still a boss.