Sunday, January 13, 2019


I remember the first time I heard the Cranberries. The musical soundscape was pretty drab and uniform in the early 90s, you could have either grunge or britpop. So this string driven ballad made you falter, first with the sweeping orchestration, secondly with the angular and elfin nature of the vocal, unmistakably of the west of Ireland, like nothing quite else at that moment. Perhaps Sinead O'Connor would be the only, if a lazy, reference, but Dolores was more carefully broken glass than Sinead's crystal. I think I bought the album, 'Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We',  the same day. I had planned to write how, sadly, the rest of the record carried less punch, but, actually, on listening again this morning, I find I can't. Always a sometimes uncomfortable mix between the Linger-alike ballads and the more jangly group efforts, strangely it is the latter that stand up better. I seem to recall the band were derided as being somewhat pedestrian plodders, stripped of the strings and the never less than remarkable vocal calisthenics. Reflection reveals such opinion to be overly harsh, the backing being actually just right, never flashy, always solid, if a little too enthusiastic on the chorus pedal. (Hell, what do I mean "too enthusiastic"; there's no such thing! I love chorus pedal and, let's face it, it was compulsory in the Irish Republic at the time.) Of course, the public don't listen to the critics, and the band went huge. O'Riordan was 21.

Second album, 'No Need To Argue', was an altogether more muscular effort, again launched by the extraordinariness of the lead single, 'Zombie'. With more than a hint of the prevailing grunginess of the era being absorbed into their singular trademark, I still adore this song. The killjoys who lampoon the lyrics can do so all they like, I happen to think the tanks and the bombs and the bombs and the guns has a naive charm. They're a pop group, she's a pop singer, for chrissakes, anyone one would think she was Bono or something. (Oh.)

I've a confession to make. I have never heard any of the other Cranberries records. And there were five of them. Somehow they fell out of my field of vision. But I was aware of O'Riordan's, um, difficulties, they filtering through into the papers I was reading. Like Sinead, to whom she is so often compared against, she seems to have survived a childhood of abuse, adulthood leavening fame and fortune with an unfair share of post traumatic legacies. This is not the place for this, they are well documented. But I didn't lose all sight of her. Perhaps, as my tastes in music broadened, so the later 90s saw me becoming more immersed in what has become known as World Music, particularly in the hands of and creative mixing pot of artists like Jah Wobble. And, in another nod to Sinead O'Connor, like her so too did Dolores join up with his Invaders of the Heart to add her unmistakable muddy brogue to his rhythmical potpourri.

The tragedy is not only that she died so young, at 46, with 3 youngish children, but that things seemed slowly moving back into her favour. The Cranberries were working again together and laying down new material, after the last of many breaks and hiatuses. The remaining members of the band have said they will complete the album, release it in her memory and break up, for the final time. Here's the story, from Ireland's wonderful 'Hot Press', the 'Rolling Stone' of Dublin.

Let her linger in your heart.

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