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Sinead O'Connor - Faith and Courage Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 June 2000
Faith and Courage
Atlantic Records, 2000
| Performance 7 | Sound 5.5 |

ImageAfter a long absence from the music industry, Sinead O’Connor is back with a new record company, an updated sound and her first full-length album in over six years. Always a strong and independent woman in both actions and words, Sinead’s new album ‘Faith and Courage’ continues in the spirit of her past work, but the sound is updated with tinges of electronica and R & B, plus drum and bass.

Never letting her listeners forget that she is from Ireland, most of Sinead’s songs feature some form of traditional Irish instrumentation, most often flutes and whistles, mixed in with more modern sounds such as electronic drum loops. From her expulsion at the age of 15 from Catholic school to her much-publicized denouncement of the Pope in 1992 on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ religion has always been at the forefront of Sinead’s music and the contents of ‘Faith and Courage’ prove no exception. The rhythmic phrasing of many of her vocal parts sound as if they were pulled directly from a Catholic mass. Does this work in pop music, you ask? It may catch people a little off guard, but my feeling is that it helps define her sound and sets her apart from other female vocalists.

Opening with the Ronnie Size-inspired drum and bass beat on the track " The Healing Room" and moving on to the hip-hop flavored rock song "No Man’s Woman," the first half of ‘Faith and Courage’ really grabbed my attention. After four solid tracks, the album hits its peak with the defiant rocker "Daddy I’m Fine." Fathers with young daughters all over the world will cringe when they hear the lyrics to this song as Sinead sings of being a young Catholic schoolgirl who wants to be a rock star, party all night and sleep with every guy she can find. Courtney Love could only dream of writing such a defiant and aggressive ode to being a rebellious girl.

After "Daddy I’m Fine," the music remains in a slow to mid-tempo mode. This aspect of the album is a bit disappointing. Sinead’s first real hit in the United States was her cover of Prince’s "Nothing Compares 2 U," a stark and powerful ballad that helped her achieve platinum sales and rocketed her into the public eye. I don’t think people realize that Sinead, despite her small frame and generally timid appearance, can rock with the Alanises and Courney Loves of the world and, in my opinion, does it better than both of those artists. One of the only problems that I could find with the rest of the album is that she doesn’t rock enough on it.

The only other real complaint that I have about ‘Faith and Courage’ is the fact that many of the instruments and, at times, Sinead’s vocal tracks seem distorted and unusually compressed. I’m not talking about the Metallica cranking their guitar amps up to 10-type distortion. It’s the kind of transient distortion that your grandmother isn’t necessarily going hear, but it’s subtle enough to possibly bother you, and will drive music enthusiasts with good ears insane. I know that every album can’t sound as good as Lyle Lovett’s ‘Joshua Judges Ruth,’ but with the money and resources that went into producing this album, I was disappointed to hear the distortion. It may have been done to create a unique sound, a la the Beatles distorting the mixing board when recording the guitar tracks for "Revolution 9," but I think it was more likely the result of noisy drum machines and samplers recorded with an improper gain structure. To ensure that it was not a product of my listening environment, I played the album on four different systems and this distortion was evident on each one of them.

Sinead’s music is not easily digestible pop, which may put some people off, but despite the shoddy production on ‘Faith and Courage,’ there is some real substance and merit to this album. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t sound better and rock more often.

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