articles Part 2
Dolores O'Riordan is a hit as a bitter-sweet Cranberry
By Andrew Billen
London Observer Service
Dublin - There
are some stars who cannot prevent themselves from
shining. Even if
you haven't understood their success before, you get the
when you actually meet them.
lead singer of the Irish band the Cranberries, is
not among them,
at 5 feet 3 inches and weighing less than 100 pounds, she is not, as she admits,
"a huge, voluptuous-type woman."
In her black
T-shirt and jeans, she looks particularly minuscule
on a sofa in her hotel room. Her once platinum hair has
reverted to matte
black. Her skin is gray, her eyes dull.
imagine her ever carrying off her "queen bee" entrances on
"descending a steep flight of steps to mix it with her drones," as
one of her many
enemies in the music press put it.
Indeed, you can't
really imagine her getting up from the sofa. Nor
orders aspirin from room service. O'Riordan's hangover is
the most pop-star
thing about her this morning, although she insists she
hardly ever gets
one these days. She was drunk for "a month solid" last
time she toured
and learned the lesson, Drinking, she says, is an English
pop star thing:
"A lot of English bands seem to think if they wear shades and lather pants
and go around with a bottle of beer in their hands, they are a big hit."
With or without a
bottle in hand, O'Riordan is an indisputable hit.
Having sold 13
million records in three years and ascended the top 10 lists
of 25 countries,
the Cranberries are Ireland's biggest musical export since U2.
Their success has
made her an unusually rich 24-year-old with a liking
house-buying and the ability to make dreams come true - one of them being to buy
her mother a restaurant as a reward for the years she supported the family
working in a factory canteen.
explanation for the Cranberries' international success is, I
reason the pop purists resent it: O'Riordan's unashamedly
lyrics. There is not a sentence or a sentiment in her new
The Faithful Departed," that need detain you in any language.
is about how she loved her granddad ("I sat on your knees, every
Friday"). "Bosnia" carries the uncontentious thought that war was
"so unkind." "Salvation" implores "all those people
doin' lines: don't do it."
imagination were to snag on any of these lyrics rather than be
lulled by their
exquisite rendition, it would have nothing to do with their
By treating explicitly with universally felt emotions,
these are songs
that engage your heart even as they shut down your brain.
is," she says, "very honest, direct stuff. I suppose that is why it
broke through. A
lot of people find it hard to be honest about their
Actually, I find it quite hard to talk about them, but I find it quite easy to
write them as a song."
they'll be shared with so many?
because they all relate to it. They re all in the same
boat, really. All
the fans have those feelings and experiences - pretty simple, day-to-day stuff.
Some people just prefer listening to a song than going to a psychologist."
songs would work as well for me if she hummed them (but
the Cocteau Twins
have already thought of that) or if they were obscured in
language she was tutored in at school). They might even work
Some yearn to
escape English entirely: the opening of "Ode To My
Family" is a
series of baby syllables; the chorus of "Electric Blue," from
the new album, is
in Latin; "Bosnia" revolves into (and this is an official
"Rummmpatitum, Rummmpatitum... Traboo, Traboo, Traboo..."
It seems to me
that if we are to grant her lyrics any worth, it is as a
tools. They then become as serious as anybody's private diary
and, in her case,
perhaps more so, although we must take note of her
"I do exaggerate my emotions a little and I overreact for the sake of a
song" - which may be the most honest thing ever uttered by a writer about
subject of her music emerges as her unequal relationship
Her first album,
"Everybody Else Is Doing It, Why Can't We (newspaper
typo, should be
"Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We") (1984)
should be 1993), deals with men as business partners and
"Pretty" and "Put Me Down" are little more than grumbles
directed at a local studio manager whom the Cranberries fell out with. Another,
the famous "Linger", concerns her first near-boyfriend, a 17-year-old
soldier: "You know I'm such a fool for you," she tells him;
"You've got me wrapped around your finger."
Her second album,
"No Need to Argue," agonizes over a doomed three-year romance with an
Irish musician called Make O'Mahony, which can be encapsulated in three lines
from the title track: "There's no need to argue anymore, I gave you all I
could/But it left me sore" (yet another typo, should read "There's no
need to aruge anymore, I gave all I could/But it left me so sore.")
"I ran away
from home and moved in with him," she says, "but the more successful I
became, the more domineering he became and then physical violence stopped the
relationship. It took me a year to get out because there was a lot of reverse
psychology involved. There was this whole bit about: 'You're going to leave me
now you are famous.' The more successful I got, the worse it became. I was
scared. I was really frightened."
I should add at
once that when I put this to O'Mahony, he denies he was
"I have no idea why she is saying these things," he tells me
on the phone.
"I'm very angry with her for saying them.
two kinds of hurt - physical and emotional, and I think I
came out of the
relationship more hurt than her emotionally... We had our rows like any couple,
but it wasn't anything violent."
Whatever the sad
truth of all this, her songs suggest she was expecting
a great deal from
the relationship, almost the total protection a child
seeks from a
I am not entirely
surprised to hear that she has only recently become
close to her own
father. She was brought up amid a family of seven children in a two-bedroom
cottage outside Limerick, so his attention was necessarily divided.
really talk when I was growing up," she says. She never
flirted with him?
wanted to, but it just didn't happen. So I kept that for when
I was in my
So it was that
her first song, written when she was 12, was about her
crush on a
40-year-old. Now she writes songs about the 33-year-old she
summers ago, Don Burton, former tour manager for Duran Duran, one of her
favorite groups at school.
The new album
sumptuously romanticizes the one-sided match. "In the
complex/There's nothing simple when I'm not around you," she sings in
"When You're Gone," while in "Electric Blue" she implores,
"Always be near me, guardian angel."
Is she comparing
the blue-eyed Burton with an angel?
"In the song
I'm kind of thinking," she says sweetly, "that maybe
somebody sent my
husband to protect me."
I hope he
appreciates the responsibility he bears.
Below is the official MCA Records biography
being used to promote "Wake Up And Smell The Coffee" worldwide.
Have you got a
moment? That simple query lies at the heart of The Cranberries' Wake Up And
Smell The Coffee, the Irish band's sublime MCA Records debut and first new album
in two years. Over the past decade, the Cranberries have sold millions of
records and won fans around the world thanks to their tight arrangements,
inerrant melodic instincts, probing songs and, especially, the crystalline
vocals of Dolores O'Riordan.Now celebrating their 10th anniversary, the
Cranberries have got it down, and with their new album they make an earnest,
tuneful plea to seize the day while cherishing every moment of life. In some
ways, Wake Up And Smell The Coffee is a homecoming. The album was produced in
Dublin by Stephen Street (The Smiths, Morrissey, Blur), producer of the band's
first two albums. Says Dolores, "There's a sense of stability Stephen
brings to this band. He used to be so paternal when he first worked with us, and
he'd talk to me like I was one of his kids. This time, our relationship is more
mutual." Adds drummer Fergal Lawler, "It was great to be with him
again. Stephen really understands us and gets the best from every one of
us." Indeed, the new album radiates a deep contentment the band members
feel in their lives today, both personally and professionally. "This is the
calmest we've ever been," says Dolores. "We've proven ourselves by
now, so we're really relaxed and really enjoyed ourselves in the studio, totally
going with the flow." Songs
like the muted "Never Grow Old" and the premiere single "Analyse"
capture the struggle between head and heart, while appreciating life's simpler
joys. "There was a point in the last year or so when I finally saw the
beauty I had been blind to for so long,"
notes Dolores. "These songs
say 'don't stress worrying about tomorrow, next week, next year, when there's so
much beauty around.'" The haiku-like "Pretty Eyes" has a winsome
60's feel, while "Time is Ticking Out" shows that The Cranberries
still retain all the turbulent political fury of albums past. The languid
"Dying Inside," which describes the steady corruption of a soul,
contrasts sharply with unabashed love songs like "The Concept" and
"I Really Hope." The slow waltz "Carry On" and "Do You
Know" both celebrate the life-force, while the harder-rocking title track
throws new light on an old saying. The album closes with the hauntingly personal
"Chocolate Brown" cut live with one microphone. "A few songs on
the album have different vibes from anything we've done before," notes
Mike. "It's nice to do different things, though it's not something we plan.
It just happens naturally." Taking
that organic approach has been a hallmark of The Cranberries since first forming
in their hometown of Limerick, Ireland. The 80's had produced a bumper crop of
Irish stars, including U2, Clannad, Enya, Hot House Flowers, and Sinead
O'Connor. In 1989, the Hogan brothers, along with friends Fergal Lawler and
singer Niall Quinn, sought to emulate their countrymen/heroes. Initially calling
themselves The Cranberry Saw Us, the rowdy band ultimately coalesced when
Dolores replaced Quinn sometime after the band had played a few gigs. Early
demos drew the attention of Island Records' Chris Blackwell and top producer
Denny Cordell (Leon Russell, Tom Petty), which led to their first major record
deal. In 1992, The Cranberries released their multi-platinum debut Everybody
Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? The 1993 single "Linger" reached
the American Top 10, with the album selling over a million copies in North
America and, following a re-release, debuting at #1 on the U.K. charts (after
failing to climb above #75 initially). Their second album No Need To Argue
(1994) sold 12 million copies in its first year of release, propelled by the hit
single "Zombie," while their 1996 third album To The Faithful
Departed, produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, AC/DC) reaped
additional gold and platinum for the band. More than anything, fans and critics
were charmed by The Cranberries' no-frills style. "We learned early on that
less is more," says Noel. "If you fill up all the empty space, then
there's no room for the music to breathe, especially given the kind of singer
Dolores is." The Cranberries' self-produced 1999 fourth album Bury The
Hatchet topped the charts in 17 countries and set the stage for their biggest
tour ever (6 continents, 110 concerts, over a million fans). After that, they
took a well-deserved break, reconvening to write and record the new album. The
first sessions for Wake Up And Smell The Coffee took place in summer 2000 at
Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios, prior to the birth of Dolores' second child.
Dolores and Noel each became parents for the second time with the birth of Molly
and Sophie, respectively, in January and March 2001. "Having children helps
you stop worrying about stupid things," Fergal notes. "And they
brought us closer as a band too. We're always asking things like, 'How's the
teething coming along?'"
Soon, they'll be packing up the teething rings for an extensive world
tour. The Cranberries have always been one of the hardest working, hardest
touring bands, and family obligations notwithstanding, they're anxious to get
back on the road. "We really enjoyed the last tour," says Mike.
"To go out and enjoy each night the way we'd always dreamed about was
fantastic. Fans anywhere can feel our vibe even if they don't understand the
lyrics." Globetrotters they may be, but for all four, there's still no
place like home. Says Fergal, "A lot of people told us we should move to
Dublin or London. But we never saw the point. Limerick is where we live, where
our families and friends are. Besides, if you're away from Ireland too long,
your heart grows heavy. You've gotta get back and get your fix, even if it's
just for a week or two. It's a magical place." There are those that might
say The Cranberries themselves have been responsible for some of that magic.
Today, after ten years and 33 million albums sold, the band is in their best
condition ever, both musically and personally. "We're really happy as a
band and as individuals," notes Fergal, "and we think this album
captured that." With Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, The Cranberries have
attained a new artistic benchmark. Drink up.
Cranberries Wake Up
After lengthy layoff, Irish band will return with new album in the fall
have been a lot of changes within the Cranberries since America last heard from
the Limerick Ireland quartet. What's most notable though, as the band sit in a
London studio to discuss their October 23rd MCA release, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, is the fervor in which they speak
about their renewed commitment to the group, a result of the internal baby boom
that paralleled the recording of the effort.
don't take the band for granted so much any more," begins frontwoman
Dolores O'Riordan who gave birth to her second child midway through laying down
tracks on the band's fifth studio album. "You kind of enjoy it more if you
have children. If the band is your whole life you get sick of it 'cause you're
eating, drinking, sleeping the Cranberries. When you go and have children you
have something real and something that's more important ultimately -- something
that needs you more than anything else. Then it puts the challenge back into the
band and you almost have to kind of work."
easier to do this," adds guitarist Noel Hogan, whose second daughter Sophie
was born in March. "With a baby you can't take a lunch break."
with this new enthusiasm and joined by producer Stephen Street, who worked on
the group's first two releases, which produced worldwide hits "Linger"
and "Zombie," the band laid down tracks for Wake Up in two sessions: one in Dublin last fall and the other in
London in May. These resulted in a maturation of the Cranberries token Celtic
rock sound, and in particular O'Riordan's most confident vocals to date on
tracks like potential first single "Analyse" with its echoes of
"Ode to My Family," the anthemic "This Is the Day," and the
delicate "Chocolate Brown."
switched to new label MCA "because the music came secondary," at their
previous home Island, according to drummer Fergal Lawler, the Cranberries are
looking forward to launching Wake Up
in October. They are also gearing up for a 2002 tour to connect with longtime
fans the band are sure haven't been swayed by an American music scene weaned on
the likes of Britney Spears. "We don't' really worry about it because we
have our own Web site and we know how many Cranberry fans there are out there
that have been following the band for years and years and years," says
O'Riordan. "I don't think they're suddenly going to get up and walk away
just because Britney Spears is being played on the radio more than us. We have
the history that a lot of those bands don't. This is our fifth album not our
first. So sure we were the big stars earlier . . . but what happens is a lot of
bands can't follow up and we followed it up time and time again. So we're not
looking for that anymore. We've been there, we've done that and now were just
kind of surfing the ways and enjoying things."
(June 1, 2001)
Return Home Previous Page: Articles Part1