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

point completely when you actually meet them.

Dolores O'Riordan, 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

today, prostrate on a sofa in her hotel room. Her once platinum hair has

reverted to matte black. Her skin is gray, her eyes dull.

You cannot imagine her ever carrying off her "queen bee" entrances on

stage - "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

does she.

Instead, she 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

for multiple 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.

A partial explanation for the Cranberries' international success is, I

suspect, the reason the pop purists resent it: O'Riordan's unashamedly

undemanding lyrics. There is not a sentence or a sentiment in her new

album, "To The Faithful Departed," that need detain you in any language.

"Joe" 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."

If your 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

technical merit. By treating explicitly with universally felt emotions,

these are songs that engage your heart even as they shut down your brain.

"It 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

emotions. Actually, I find it quite hard to talk about them, but I find it quite easy to write them as a song."

Even though they'll be shared with so many?

"It's fine 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."

Actually, her 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

Gaelic (the language she was tutored in at school). They might even work

better.

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

transcription): "Rummmpatitum, Rummmpatitum... Traboo, Traboo, Traboo..."

It seems to me that if we are to grant her lyrics any worth, it is as a

biographer's 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

confession: "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 literary effort.

The primary subject of her music emerges as her unequal relationship

with men.

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)

(another typo, should be 1993), deals with men as business partners and

lovers. "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

ever violent. "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.

"There are 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 parent.

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.

"We didn't really talk when I was growing up," she says. She never

flirted with him?

"No. I wanted to, but it just didn't happen. So I kept that for when

I was in my 20s."

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

married two 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

day, everything's 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.

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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.

<http://www.virginradio.co.uk/music/artists/cranberries/biog.html>

 

Cranberries Wake Up
After lengthy layoff, Irish band will return with new album in the fall

There 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.

"You 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."

"It's 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."

So 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."

Having 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."

JOLIE LASH
(June 1, 2001)

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