Sinead O’Brien: Time Bend and Break the Bower review – a lack of imaginative verve

Poetry and music are odd bedfellows. Both art forms rely on not trying to explain everything and letting the audience fill in the gaps. When the two collide it can become increasingly difficult to find those gaps. Post-punk Irish poet Sinead O’Brien’s debut never quite resolves that problem. She’s an interesting character, a fashion designer mentored by Vivienne Westwood and employed by John Galliano’s Parisian fashion house; inspired by Mark E Smith as much as WB Yeats.

Yet O’Brien’s music, while often smart and sharply played, is rarely exciting as it skips from dusty funk to spiky electronica, and her poetry isn’t quite limber enough to enliven the bare scaffolding supplied by her band. The lyrics of End of Days, for example, proffering apocalyptic visions, are reasonably engaging, yet the song’s predictable title betrays a lack of imaginative verve. Elsewhere, there aren’t enough memorable lines or choruses. This sort of solidly competent work may work better live, when O’Brien’s training in Tanztheater (German expressionist dance) supports her strident sprechgesang delivery. Or maybe it will remove even more of the gaps that poetry and music need, not leaving any room at all for us to find ourselves.