THE FIRST one had O'Connor screaming in a storm of icy blue. This one has a sleeve that looks like a Phil Collins album, all handwriting, muted colours and a big baldy head looking moodily askance.
And, perchance more importantly, 'The Lion And The Cobra' was raging raw unfocused melodrama, Hazel O'Connor without the silly voice. 'I Do Not Want...' is a controlled, intelligent, and even tidy album. It's also pretty good.
O'Connor as a pop person is composed of some fairly disparate elements; there's a rather melodramatic version of the Primal Scream (Arthur Janov, readers, not Bobby Gillespie) tears and shouting, there's a desire to display her favo musics - hip-hop and folk get a look in here, often on the same song - and holding it all together are the voice, the face and a brilliantly odd idea of pop which has got something to do with John Lennon and Prince and nothing much to do with convention.
There's also the inconsistent politics toss - but then, a pop star who knows what they're talking about when it comes to shopping is rare, so if O'Connor wants to talk bollocks about politics, why not? 'I Do Not Want...' itself is varied but never inconsistent. It runs through Prince, Soul II Soul, hip-hop, Irish poetry, punk rock, acoustic guitar bobbins, confession, politics, a cappella dirges and chunky new wave pop. There's even a bit when O'Connor is singing some stuff about having her life destroyed and suddenly she goes "La la la la!" like she was The Archies. This is one of those records where mad variety is nailed together by sheer force of will; O'Connor could be singing Catalan lacrosse anthems and you would know it was her.
'I Do Not Want...' is of course a pretty emoting sort of record. 'The Emperor's New Clothes' is a song very heavy on specifics and is full of not very obscure lines like. "He thinks I just became famous and that's what messed me up" and the splendidly un-rock 'n' roll"You know how it is/And how a pregnancy can change you". (Cover that, Wayne Hussey).
'The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance' - which features the mighty spacecraft of iron planet-wasting that is Jah Wobble's bass - goes "Two years ago the seed was planted/And since then you have taken me for granted". The title track is a confessional about the dangers of purity and is naturally sung unaccompanied. We are not talking ironic tongue-in-cheek style pop here. Strangely, this is not annoying. Specifically biographical songs often run the risk of being TOTALLY BORING and make the mistake of believing that raw emotion is innately entertaining. But 'I Do Not Want...' takes up the idea of raging emotions recalled in tranquility and tamps them down.
Sometimes the fury does erupt - most specifically on the crashing end of 'Acquaintance' - but it is a musical fury, not a chanted problem page. This is a pop record, after all. Observe the latest incarnation of the famed 'Jump In The River'. O'Connor delivers that rather look-at-me-I'm-a-bit-mad-everyone line "Like the times we did it so hard/There was blood on the wall" but there is no time to cringe at this naughty girl of psychosis drivel because the tune is jaunty and odd and the music is loud and New Wave.
And even the constant battering we get from the word "I" on this record - scarcely a second goes by without a pronouncement on the state of O'Connor's self - is muted by the groovy music.
Such quibbles are best left to the darker moments of the soul 'ere dawn traces its pink fingers 'cross night's grim brow. Mostly there is grooviness, like the laff-a-minute 'I Am Stretched On Your Grave' which is a well bizarre Irish poem about a dead girl and which is accompanied by the fiddle and the ol' hip hip drum kit.
'Black Boys On Mopeds' is a neat piece about the crapness of England, Thatcher, people's lives, the end of illusions: "England's not the home of Madame George and roses/It's the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds". 'Emperors New Clothes' is one of