Album reviews for Aug. 14, 2014

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Gazette wire services
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sinead O’Connor, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss”

After a rough few years for Sinead O’Connor, as she dealt with a 16-day marriage and canceled a tour due to mental illness, it’s heartening to see her confident image on the cover of the new disc, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.” She wears a black wig and sexy latex dress, hugging an electric guitar to her chest. The boss, indeed.

O’Connor, 47, seemed like a strong woman in control of her life and work in her younger years, even while singing about heartbreak or acting a little nutty. What’s striking about her new set of songs is how needy, even forlorn, she sounds.

She yearns openly for a strong man in the album opener and elsewhere: for a man to “take me, make a fool of me all night.” She dreams about another: “I’d give anything to be the one who kisses you.” She dubs herself “special forces,” called in “after divorces” due to her kissing ability, but she warns a guy that she’s not the keeping kind. She sings about being foolishly seduced by a married man and bemoans that she looks like a wooden chair. “Take me to church,” she pleads. “I’ve done so many bad things it hurts.” She even writes of contemplating suicide.

“I love to make music, but my head got wrecked by the business,” she sings on “8 Good Reasons.” “Everybody wanting something from me, they rarely ever wanna just know me. I became the stranger no one sees.”

Yikes! Only O’Connor truly knows where autobiography ends and art begins, but the material here could keep a psychiatrist at work for months.

The emotion overwhelms the music, where her once-distinctive sound is now mostly generic, though the album was produced by longtime collaborator and O’Connor’s first ex-husband, John Reynolds.

The exciting exception is the crashing climax in the song “Harbour.”

Her love for music is evident, and she still has considerable talent. But O’Connor here sounds less like a boss and more like a broken woman.

—David Bauder, Associated Press

Spoon, “They Want My Soul”

After establishing a standard of excellence with five albums since the turn of the millennium, the Austin, Texas, rock band Spoon took a break after 2010’s slightly less than excellent “Transference.”

Singer Britt Daniel paired off with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade to form the synthsational side project Divine Fits, while drummer/producer Jim Eno got busy knob-twiddling for bands such as Telekinesis and !!!.

The brief hiatus served the band well.

Collaborating with a pair of producers—Joe Chiccarelli, who’s worked with everyone from Tori Amos to Frank Zappa, and Dave Fridmann, who’s closely associated with the Flaming Lips—Spoon tweaks its sound ever so slightly, playing around with electro-pop experimentalism on “Outlier,” for instance.

But mostly, “They Want My Soul” is sharp, smart and concise, exactly what you would hope—and expect—a Spoon album to be. That goes for the meaty hooks that get things going with appropriate swagger on “Rent I Pay” and the grabby melody and jagged guitar breaks on the title cut, in which Daniel rails against anyone who might steal his mojo.

The special treat is “I Just Don’t Understand,” a 1961 Ann-Margret hit sung by principal Daniel influence John Lennon when the Beatles covered it on their BBC radio sessions.

Here, it just sounds like another really good Spoon song.

—Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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