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**** SINEAD O'CONNOR "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" Chrysalis : Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

March 18, 1990|CHRIS WILLMAN

She's not just kidding around with those double personal pronouns in the title. The more careful artist will usually wait a little bit into her career to bare her soul so fully, but Sinead O'Connor--on only her second album, at the age of 23--has taken a full-fledged skinny-dip into the dangerous waters of confessional songwriting. At times contrary to its title, "I Do Not Want . . . " is a stark, brave, self-absorbed--and absorbing--catalogue of obsession.

Those fans who read O'Connor's press interviews after her first album--in which she blasted everyone and everything in sight--will not be surprised at the anger directed here at old friends, or the "millions of people (who) offer advice and say how I should be," or God, or at least one ex-lover. What is surprising, however, is the vulnerability that runs hand in hand with the expected toughness: "It just sounds more vicious than I actually mean / I really am soft and tender and sweet," she protests in the penultimate song, without a trace of coyness.

True to the confessional genre, O'Connor tends to match raw emotion with spare sounds; the programmed minimalism of the Prince-penned single "Nothing Compares 2 U" is characteristic of the quiet, desperate, lovelorn beauty of most of the album. The LP's stark, downbeat musicality--while lovingly trussed up with strings here or a hip-hop rhythm section there--doesn't necessarily lend itself to instant repeat listenings.

But neither did "Plastic Ono Band." Savor it, save it and pull it out later on one of those fateful days like O'Connor's haunting "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance." And may your bittersweet triumph taste as sweet as hers.

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