By Evelyn McDonnell
September 16, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Universal Mother


It seems that when pop stars address their own family sagas, they turn to the pop psychology of their times: John Lennon screamed ”Mother!” primal-therapy- style in the ’70s. Now Sinead O’Connor exorcises her inner child on her latest, most reflective album, Universal Mother (Chrysalis). Interweaving meditations on her late mother and her own maternity, O’Connor finds metaphors for religion, reproductive rights, and even the infantilization of Ireland. In the album’s opening, she cleverly probes the contradiction between mother- worshiping and mother-blaming: An excerpt from a speech by Germaine Greer calling on women to change government by finding the ”trick of cooperation” is answered with ”Fire on Babylon,” a song that screams ”What about Margaret Thatcher!” without ever mentioning her name. As usual, O’Connor is uncompromising when on the attack-she has the zeal of religious fervor behind her-although she’s primarily interested in healing and love. ”Fire on Babylon” has flashes of passion, and ”Famine” is an assured rap, but these songs are mostly soft and small; a few are actual lullabies. Happily, her voice is emerging from effects-land, although its tremulous quality still sounds overdone. B+

Universal Mother

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