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The Cranberries Remain Timeless and Beautiful In The End

Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries solidify their place amongst the most talented, and now most sadly missed, artists with the beautiful In The End.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say about Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries last album. It took even longer to decide if I even wanted to say anything about it. For many younger members of Generation X, coming of age in the grunge and alt-rock haunted early and mid 1990s, The Cranberries weren’t particularly our favorite band, even if more than half of us were secretly in love with Dolores from the first time we heard her voice. The Cranberries’ first single, “Linger”, was a little to light for a bunch of dudes who were moshing to Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. Later on, as my appreciation for music that was happening at the time (outside of grunge) grew, The Cranberries got loud with songs like “Zombie” and the whole of To The Faithful Departed (which is still my favorite album of theirs), and I grew to appreciate O’Riordan’s’ tried and true Irish lit thematics, The Cranberries entered a very unique space in my library of appreciated, and later loved, bands. For me O’Riordan grew from a late teen/early 20s crush to a truly unique and interesting artistic voice, both in the audible and literary sense. I’m not sure that what I have to say about The Cranberries last album will be expressly profound or worthy of Dolores O’Riordan’s legacy. The Cranberries are a band that I at first dismissed, then crushed on the lead singer of, then ended up highly respecting, and now seriously miss. The best thing I think I can do is focus on the fact that The Cranberries, with In The End, have solidified their already steadfast and timeless place in rock music. It’s a place that transcends their era, and their untimely end.

It’s hard to imagine that a band with a singer who sported such a thick brogue as O’Riordan did and played the type of hard to soft rock could find the success today that they did in the 1990s. In many ways The Cranberries are a testament to a dead era of popular music. One where radio exposure, being part of a popular trend of music, and speaking with a unique voice lead to commercial and critical success. It was a time when the release of a new album, or the emergence of a new artist, inspired listening parties and midnight releases instead of Instagram posts and downloads. The early 1990s were an era where organic music and authentic musicians were looked to in response to glittery pop stars and overproduced cookie cutter hair metal. The Cranberries, with their Irish working class sounding, and female, lead singer was the definition of the alternative to pop rock music at the time.

Sounding both vulnerable and unbreakable, often at once, O’Riordan’s voice was not so much a cliched breath of fresh air as it was a powerful blast of cool Irish Sea mist that consoled the soul as well as inflamed it to action, again often at once. O’Riordan sang convincingly, and inspirationally, about being Pro-Choice in a country that just recently decriminalized abortion (“Free To Decide”), and about the heroin epidemic that swept her homeland in the 1990s and is now taking its toll on America (“Salvation”). The softer moments, like the personal favorite “Ode To My Family” off of No Need To Argue, were no less inspirational. “Ode To My Family” was the song that seriously brought on the late teen years crush I spoke of earlier (as well as the band’s performance of the song on SNL the year the album broke-it would be the first and only time I’d see my crush “live”).

Like most Irish bands, from U2 to Clannad, The Cranberries’ music was through and through infused with the melancholy that seems bred into Irish literature, and music. Even when U2 and Bono were singing and performing at the height of a joyful noise, as they do when the they play “Pride (In The Name of Love)” there’s an evident melancholic sense of loss at what could have been in response to what actually is. The Cranberries fully embraced this aspect of their culture, and themselves, which is what made them so appealing to their generational audience in a wider sense. This thread of melancholy runs all the way up to and through In The End as well, but here, like elsewhere throughout their catalogue, that melancholy never overpowers the art. Like in so much of their countryman WB Yeats’ work, this melancholy grounds, and then accents the moments of joy expressed in his art. This is true for U2, and especially The Cranberries’, work.

In The End can’t help but be a bit overshadowed with a little of that “what could have been” sentiment since it is likely the last time we will hear an album from The Cranberries as they existed until the untimely passing of O’Riordan. Hearing her voice, so strong, confident, and seemingly timeless on the demos that the band flushed out and finished so wonderfully is the perfect O’Riordan and Cranberries’ experience. It is joyful, hopeful, melancholy, frustrating and simply as beautiful as listening to The Cranberries has always been. Her breathy intonations at the beginning of “Illusion” off of In The End that break into her instantly recognizable midrange, inspire the same frisson that her opening to “Ode to My Family” did all those years and albums ago. The lazy summer day slide guitar and strummed acoustic notes of “A Place I Know” are just as relaxing as the lush tones of “I Will Always” off of Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The bass heavy opening of “Wake Me When It’s Over” ushers in a sense of seriousness and urgency not unlike that conveyed by the heaviness that forms the foundation of “Zombie.” The powerful, yet simply poetic, lyrics of “The Pressure”

When I see your face

All of my worries

Dissipate from me

Dissipate from me

Disintegrate

…can only be delivered convincingly by O’Riordan like similar lyrics from Pearl Jam’s “Siren” can only be delivered by someone with a voice like Eddie Vedder:

I always loved you, held you high above too

I studied your face, the fear goes away

The fear goes away, the fear goes away

The album’s final song, “In The End,” is almost too tender to even consider here with an unsentimental blush. “Ain’t it strange?/When everything you wanted/Was nothing that you wanted/In the end?” The lines speak for themselves. O’Riordan sings of what we all must face someday with a clarity that, unknown to her, would soon leave her listeners in awe of that powerful and magical thing was her art. O’Riordan and The Cranberries truly were one of those magical alignments of individuals, time, talent, and spirit that despite the glaring hallmarks of their heyday in the 1990s, have passed into a timelessness afforded to only the truly transcendent.

 

 

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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