http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/1d5c30e4361cf9085c46acd7f1cfa75f3d59e0cc.jpg The Lion And The Cobra

Sinead O'Connor

The Lion And The Cobra

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
January 28, 1988

Sinéad O'Connor's first album comes on like a banshee wail across the bogs. Blending the uncompromising force of folk music, the sonic adventurousness of the Eighties and lyrics that draw on classical history, ghost tales and the Bible, The Lion and the Cobra is easily one of the most distinctive debut albums of the last year.


This achievement is all the more remarkable in that O'Connor — who is twenty years old — produced the album herself and wrote or co-wrote eight of the nine songs on it. Her most significant previous credits include co-writing and singing the haunting song "Heroine" on the Edge's soundtrack for The Captive and writing "Take My Hand," which was recorded by the Irish band In Tua Nua when O'Connor was only fourteen.

Though O'Connor now lives in London, she grew up in Dublin, and the grim, uncontrollable romanticism of Irish traditional music sets the emotional tone for The Lion and the Cobra. "Jackie," the first song on the album, tells the story of a woman who wanders the shore long after her death, awaiting the return of her lover lost at sea. The churning synthesizer and guitar build to a climactic crescendo, while O'Connor's vocal ascends from a whisper to a scream.

The album's range is deftly demonstrated when, quick on the howling fade of "Jackie," the crunching rock & roll chords of "Mandinka" start up. The shift from a folkloric world of love beyond the grave to a contemporary setting of pop hooks and fetching emotional hesitancy — "Soon I can give you my heart," O'Connor sings — is a bracing tour de force.

From the poetic rapture of "Just Like U Said It Would B" ("When you close my eyes, babe/I can see most everything") to the funky erotic insistence of "I Want Your (Hands on Me)," the rest of The Lion and the Cobra is no less accomplished. "Jerusalem" soars into an exultant, semimystical chorus; "Never Get Old" features a reading of the Ninety-first Psalm — which gave O'Connor the album's title — in Gaelic; and "Drink Before the War" compellingly sketches the links between emotional repression and violence.

An urgent string arrangement lends dramatic momentum to the swirling currents of pain, jealousy and obsession running through "Troy." "Just Call Me Joe" ends the album with a droning, hypnotic guitar dirge straight out of the Velvet Underground and Jesus and Mary Chain songbooks.

With The Lion and the Cobra, Sinéad O'Connor joins the ranks of Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson and Jane Siberry — all women who are shattering the boundaries of pop music.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Whoomp! (There It Is)”

    Tag Team | 1993

    Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

    More Song Stories entries »