x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The Cranberries are back with new album Roses

This comeback record is generally solid but unlikely to garner anything approaching the critical acclaim that has greeted their previous productions.

The Cranberries have released their sixth studio album, Roses, so far with much success. Joel Saget / AFP
The Cranberries have released their sixth studio album, Roses, so far with much success. Joel Saget / AFP

The Cranberries
Roses
Cooking Vinyl
***

Predictions persist that 2012 will bring us a full-scale revival of Britpop, the popular movement that pushed a rash of exciting new bands into the UK charts from the early 1990s onwards. As the former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher recalled recently, though, securing a similar foothold across the pond was more difficult. "Those Americans are still proving to be stubborn fools," said the singer.

Over in Ireland, meanwhile, a less-heralded outfit were achieving more substantial transatlantic success. The Cranberries initially burdened themselves with one of the worst band-names in rock history - The Cranberry Saw Us - but went on to sell 30 million albums. Half of those units were shifted in the US, where they remained a major draw until a split in 2003.

Twenty years on from their first release, Dolores O'Riordan's reformed outfit are again making a splash far beyond their native Limerick. The new material has been doing particularly well in Italy and France, and has topped the charts in Mexico. Which does beg the question: why exactly are The Cranberries such an ongoing global attraction?

This sixth album revisits their own link to Britpop, as Stephen Street is back on board as producer, having worked on their first two wildly successful records. Best known as the man behind releases by Blur and The Smiths, the mood he fashions here is largely light and accessible, with flashes of melodic flair.

Roses actually gives a flavour of two eras, as several songs have been salvaged from an album they abandoned before the split. The oddly amateurish Raining in My Heart should have been left to rot, in truth, but Astral Projections' ethereal grandeur is a reminder that The Cranberries' US profile helped lay a path for the next generation of histrionic female-fronted rockers, the likes of Evanescence and Paramore.

The Cranberries were far from universally popular, though, chiefly due to the very weapon that still renders them unique - O'Riordan's hugely distinctive voice. Much of that ire is really directed at one chorus, her memorable bark and screech on Zombie, a 1994 protest song that became the band's signature tune despite not being particularly representative of their regular output.

Nothing so abrasive lurks within Roses, as an older, calmer O'Riordan muses on more personal matters. "Too young, too proud, too foolish," she sings on the pleasingly jangly Tomorrow, perhaps recalling the ill-advised video for Zombie in which she was painted gold and performed in front of a large wooden cross.

The comeback album is a more humble affair, and actually begins with a hint of self-mockery. After a promisingly atmospheric, Sigur Rós-style introductory riff, O'Riordan opens the jaunty Conduct by announcing that "now, it's too late, I can see that we should not be together", before eventually concluding that "when we get along, we're really strong".

After finishing the album, the singer enthused that her band mates "have a unique way of creating chords" while Street was "in the zone", and the players have indeed sculpted some evocative soundscapes here. These are often welded to painfully rudimentary lyrics, admittedly, but that combination is key when pondering The Cranberries' success in territories where English is not the native language; bands that acquire a big international following often find themselves taking a more simplistic, inclusive lyrical path.

The notable exception is Roses' musical highlight, Waiting in Walthamstow. Backed by glorious John Barry-like strings and a brooding air of film noir, O'Riordan proceeds to romanticise an unfashionable London district that was previously best known for part-inspiring the seedy British soap opera EastEnders. But then that show became an unexpected global success, too.It's an enjoyable aberration. The Cranberries' comeback record is generally solid but unspectacular, and unlikely to garner anything approaching the critical acclaim that has greeted many of Street's previous productions. Not that the band and their loyal, multinational fan base will worry too much about that.

 

artslife@thenational.ae