Whether you love her for creating some of the most challenging pop music in the last 20 years or hate her for ripping up a picture of the Pope on “Satuday Night Live,” you can’t say that Sinead O’Connor hasn’t moved you in some way since she emerged from Ireland in 1987.
Now, in a year when reggae music has already been turned on its ear with the release of Willie Nelson’s “Countryman” and the Carson Daly-endorsed ascent of Hassidic toaster Matisyahu, the bald beauty tries her hand in the spiritual sounds of deepest, darkest D’yer M’aker with “Throw Down Your Arms.” Recorded at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios in the heart of Kingston, this is as straight-up dirt floor reggae as it gets (well, at least by Sinead standards), especially when you got such masters of their craft as Sly & Robbie behind the boards.
And it’s not like Sinead O’Connor to be choosing those cheesy Wailers songs her countrywomen at the village pub are croaking out when they’re drunk. She goes deep for her selections on “Arms,” pulling from the classic catalogs of such mystics as Peter Tosh (“Downpressor Man”), Lee “Scratch” Perry (“Curly Locks,” “Vampire”) and Burning Spear (“Marcus Garvey,” the title track).
For a woman who has spent the dearth of her career at war with God, Sinead finally sounds as though she’s found peace with the Holy Ghost through the power of Rastafarian culture and the music she so faithfully interprets on this pleasant surprise of an album. “These men were part of a battle fought for self-esteem and for the freeing of God from religion,” she proclaims in the second page of the liner notes here. “As such, they are my heroes, my teachers, my masters, my priests, my prophets, my guides and my godfathers.” Spoken like a true Catholic girl.