It’s in the uncomfortably enunciated album title: Sinead O’Connor’s “comeback” record How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? is an attempt to both recalibrate her artistic identity and re-establish a relationship with her prodigal audience. It’s the 45-year-old singer’s most accomplished album in ages, for sure, though it might also be her straightest.
The best song, for instance, is “4th And Vine,” a boogie about marrying her love and how nice she’s going to smell at the wedding. Considering O’Connor’s last gasp of VH1 airplay was the 2000 single “No Man’s Woman,” it’s curious to have such a blatant happy-in-love song keynote the proceedings (especially since her most recent marriage received press attention for only lasting a week). Even more curious is how something that reads so dull on paper could be so luminescent. The triply-syncopated shuffle of “4th And Vine” recalls Desmond Dekker, Group Doueh, and the Rolling Stones all teetering on the same rusty guitar string.
O’Connor’s comeback secret, it turns out, lies in simple melodies, crafty layerings of her still-intact siren’s burr, and uncomplicated lyrical couplets (like rhyming “monkey” with “junkie”). Little else sullies the sigh-of-relief guitars that drive highlights like “The Wolf Is Getting Married,” which is at least as happy as “4th And Vine” (“Your smile makes me smile”), and her rocked-up version of John Grant’s wonderfully pissy “Queen Of Denmark.” (“I don’t know who you are anymore / Let me see your license and registration.”) Now if O’Connor could just rediscover Prince. His albums could use some freshening up, too.