LISTENING STATION: Sinead O’Connor’s ‘How About I Be Me’

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How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?

Sinead O'Connor

One Little Indian

★★★

It’s been years — two decades, in fact; a virtual lifetime in pop music — since Sinead O'Connor held a sort of sway over the mainstream.

Her biggest hit, 1990’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” now belongs to an older generation, one whose idea of musical controversy is Miss O'Connor’s defiantly shaved head, not Britney Spears’ sexually charged R&B. She still has an audience, but it’s a small one, a narrow slice of devoted baby boomers and Generation X’ers who have helped cushion Miss O'Connor’s fall from feminist pop icon to semi-forgotten footnote.

These days, you’ve got to do a lot more than buzz off your hair or badmouth the church to attract attention. So, with her glory days of controversy and chart-topping hits fading in the rearview mirror, Miss O'Connor quietly steers her way toward an unassuming comeback with “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?” It’s her first album in five years, but it’s easily been twice as long since Miss O'Connor sounded so grounded, so tuneful.

“How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?” casts a wide net, swirling an eclectic mix of Celtic folk music, African rhythms, smooth strings and big, bombastic guitar riffs into the same set list. “4th and Vine,” the jaunty opening track, finds the singer anticipating her wedding day over polyphonic percussion and folk-rock instrumentation, while “Reason With Me” shows her switching gears and singing from a junkie’s perspective.

Perennial topics like religion and Catholic corruption pop up from time to time, too, proof that Miss O'Connor hasn’t completely washed her hands of old habits. Still, “How About I Be Me” feels like a breath of fresh air.

Reign of Terror

Sleigh Bells

Mom + Pop Music

★★★½

“Reign of Terror,” the second album from the Brooklyn-based buzz band Sleigh Bells, is an exercise in polar opposition.Bubble-gum pop melodies float through the air, blown skyward by loud, ear-splitting guitar riffs stolen from the heavy-metal handbook. Gauzy keyboards smooth out the rocky terrain, but their work is all but nullified by the clanking percussion, which sounds industrial and abrasive, like two bulldozers ramming into one another.

This is the conflicting world that Sleigh Bells purposely creates, a world in which melody and noise hold equal weight.

Band mates Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss spend the duration of the album playing a complicated game of good cop/bad cop. He hits you in the face with his coarse guitar heroics; she soothes the pain with her salve of a voice. He cranks up the distortion on his amp, demanding that you pay attention. She lulls you back to sleep.

It’s a fascinating juxtaposition, and “Reign of Terror” milks every last drop out of the band’s conflicting influences. By the time “Crush,” one of the album’s best songs, starts employing a cheerleader’s chant for a vocal hook, you don’t know whether it’s a nod to Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” or Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Probably both.

Guns N’ Roses stream concert for charity

At 11:45 on Sunday evening, Guns N’ Roses took the stage at Chicago’s House of Blues and ripped into the title cut from “Chinese Democracy,” kicking off a 34-song set that stretched well into the early-morning hours. A packed house watched the show in Chicago … and several thousand fans tuned in at home.

Guns N’ Roses broadcast the entire show over the Internet to help raise money for Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization. Fans outside of Chicago’s city limits only had to shell out $5 for a virtual ticket. The price was lowered to $3 closer to showtime.

For those who have attended a Guns N’ Roses concert and waited more than two hours for Axl Rose to finally hit the stage, the Internet broadcast was a rare treat. And Mr. Rose showed up only 45 minutes late this time.

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