Sinead O’Brien

Sinead O’Brien

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Lyrical prodding from a sharp, poetry-loving punk.

Biography

by James Hendicott
14 May 2020

“Why am I forever in recovery, from a thing you call joy?” asks Sinead O’Brien in her key track, an otherworldly piece of punk-poetry in which her vocal seems to oscillate between slightly robotic and deeply tinged with emotion. O’Brien is closer to a writer than a musician in many senses. Her lines drip with feeling, layered in detail and implied messaging, with their backdrop – influenced by poets and punk, jazz and freedom of expression – draw their primary influences from the grimy 70s New York punk scene.

From Limerick, a notoriously hardy city on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, but now based in London, O’Brien’s music nods to seminal voices with something to say, tinges of The Fall and John Cooper Clarke shining through in her subtly delivered, low-key gut punches.

From growing up in Limerick obsessing over the work of the likes of Lou Reed, O’Brien went on to work in high-end fashion in Paris, and started penning poetry to express her experiences. Pressed into a live show, she found herself thinking about how to present her writing to an audience, and so the musical backdrop fell slowly into place as a kind of natural offset.

“I sometimes have these realisations when I’m performing where I feel naked, but that’s a good thing. I like the exposure; I like daring to be scared,” she says. With backers including Vivienne Westwood, O’Brien’s debut EP, released early in 2020, sees her build on pointed tracks like ‘AList Of Normal Sins’, and insists, though its bright diversity, that she’s leaving her future progress as something of an open book.

With varied, sparse, jagged musical backdrops and a shiny, punchy lyrical layering, the Limerick woman with big, varied ambitions, both in fashion and music, could land her boisterous views almost anywhere.

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