Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sinéad O'Connor: Universal Mother [Chrysalis/EMI, 1994]
I confess this has grown on me. The quiet, stunning "All Apologies" is only the latest proof of the vocal gift--part physical (clarity, texture, amplitude), part spiritual (openness, commitment)--that can make her a great cover artist. Her lullaby is a stroke, and her signoff love song arrives at a nicely unreadable tone. But from Germaine Greer's great mother of a prologue (performancewise, Farrakhan's got the sister beat) to the weeper that could tempt Bruno Bettelheim to tell moron jokes (just precisely who does "scorn" the little retard, anyway?) to the instructional rap that'll catch your ear so fast you'll waste scarcely a second pushing the next-track button (no famine OK, "post traumatic stress disorder" blarney), the framing could be a parody conceived by son of Eire P.J. O'Rourke, and it renders the album essentially inaccessible. This isn't risking foolishness--it's flaunting it. B-