CRANBERRIES JUICED ON THEIR EDGIER THIRD ALBUM, 'TO THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED,' THE CRANBERRIES GET THEIR IRISH UP ABOUT THE STATE OF THE WORLD--AND WHIP UP THEIR OWN FRISKY REBELLION. Review by David Browne Is Prozac rock finally waking up and smelling the coffee? First the Cowboy Junkies, who led the way for the new numbed-out pop, realize on their latest album, Lay It Down, that a little rhythm and voltage isn't such a bad thing. Now the same thought seems to have occurred to the Cranberries. Have you seen their new video "Salvation"--or, more to the point, have you recognized it? The song itself is a punchy whirling dervish, and singer Dolores O'Riordan, sporting a dyed-black buzz cut, sells it with a playful snarl. Is this the same bleach-blond doe who sweetly exhaled lyrics about her dysfunctional family on the band's placid 1994 hit "Ode to My Family"? Thankfully, the answer is no. On the Cranberries' two previous albums (1993's Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? and 1994's No Need to Argue), O'Riordan murmured about abused children, hopelessly unrequited passion, and peace in her Irish homeland. But the band's tranquil, mild pop effectively neutralized her sentiments. "Salvation," a none-too-subtle mocking of just-say-no thinking, is the first indication that things have changed on the band's third and best album, TO THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (Island). "Hollywood," O'Riordan's elliptical musing on success, is set to a vacuum-cleaner wall of sound much heavier than that of their hit "Zombie." "I Just Shot John Lennon," a straightforward recounting of that evening's events, whooshes along. Even the mid-tempo songs have a new sense of uplift; "Free to Decide," in which O'Riordan accepts the end of a relationship and decides to move on, has a euphoric, reach-for-the-sky chorus that reinforces the song's theme of renewal. Some of the credit for the musical muscularity surely belongs to their new producer, Bruce Fairborn, a Bon Jove and Aero smith veteran. Fairborn is no genius, but he knows the value of punchy hooks and pacing. To the Faithful Departed is imbued with both, from the merry-go-round keyboards of "Will You Remember?" (O'Riordan ponders which memories of her an ex-lover will take with him) to "Electric Blue," a delightfully strange chant with a Latin chorus. Though her fellow Cranberries remain fairly anonymous as musicians, O'Riordan sounds more alive than ever throughout the album. She hiccups, wails like a banshee in heat, or coos like a one-woman girl group or a bunch of female Gregorian monks condensed into one. To match the band's newly aggressive attack, O'Riordan (who wrote or co-wrote the songs) apparently decided to turn herself into a distaff Sting. She has a right to tackle whatever weighty matters she desires, but she does it with all the subtlety of a St. Patrick's Day parade. In "Bosnia," she chastises us about living "in secure surroundings/And people die out there." "War Child" lays out similarly obvious sentiments ("At time of war we're all losers/There's no victory") with maudlin orchestration that makes the song drag even more. "I'm Still Remembering" begins with O'Riordan ruminating on life before and after her marriage. Suddenly, though, it becomes a wide-eyed commentary on martyrs like Kurt Cobain and John F. Kennedy ("ever saintly in a way"). And in case the lyrics elude you, "I Just Shot John Lennon" ends with the sound of five gunshots. Those moments slow the album's momentum, but never fatally so. If the Cranberries once sounded as if they were sleepwalkers in a world gone weird, To the Faithful Departed sounds as if they've finally awakened. They may not like what they see, but at least they're ready and willing to scream about it. A- (Posted: 10/28/97)
New York Times (4/28/96, Sec.2, p.34) - "...a song cycle about deaths, most of them early ones....the songs that work best are the ones in which the Cranberries rely on...ethereal guitars and warble vocals that, like the band's lyrics, are simple but heartfelt."
This is the Cranberries' contribution to the time-honored difficult-third-album syndrome, with the Irish quartet--particularly frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan--working to expand its musical base and stretch out in new lyrical directions. While their efforts are only partially successful, the band approaches the task with such cocky confidence that the album maintains a consistently high level of likableness. The band employs a convincingly aggressive instrumental attack on "Salvation" and "Hollywood," while the lilting balladry of "Free to Decide" and "When You're Gone" underlines O'Riordan's ties to Celtic folk tradition. And while her efforts at tackling current events on "War Child," "Bosnia," and the controversial "I Shot John Lennon" are hit-and-miss, her obvious sense of commitment gives those songs an undeniable power. --Scott Schinder
FAITHFUL DEPARTED: The charming and hypnotizing voice of Dolores O’Riordan has
always been the emotional core of Ireland’s Cranberries. With its 1993 debut,
Everybody Else Is Doing It..., the group couched subtle, melodic waves within
simple songs driven by O’Riordan’s sweetly distinctive voice. By its second
release, No Need To Argue, the band began tackling more personal and political
issues, highlighted by the success of “Zombie,” inspired by an IRA bombing
that killed two children. With To The
Faithful Departed, the Cranberries have taken another audacious step in
expanding their own personal horizons, while remaining true to their crystalline,
smart and unmistakable alterna-pop music. At the helm is O’Riordan, who is
fast becoming more politically-driven, tougher and in-control of the band’s
overall direction. The powerful opening cut, “Hollywood,” is shaped almost
exactly like “Zombie,” while the first single, “Salvation,” is a
frenetic track with a strong message. Amid all the political grandstanding, the
band offers the gentle “When You’re Gone” (we can see the curtain falling
with this one), reminding us they can still pull off simple, emotive pop with
substance (also hear “Free To Decide”). Other compelling songs include the
graceful and pointed “War Child,” whose dramatic tone is complemented by a
symphonic backdrop, “Forever Yellow Skies” (“I’ll forever be holding you
responsible!,” screams O’Riordan) and “I’m Still Remembering.” Fierce
and passionate, the Cranberries are still moving forward.
- Glen Sansone: CMJ New Music Report Issue: 474 – May 13, 1996
Dolores O'Riordan (vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, whistle,
mandolin); Noel Hogan (electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin); Mike Hogan (bass);
Fergal Lawler (drums, percussion). Additional personnel includes: Michael Kamen
(arranger, conductor); Richie Buckley (tenor saxophone); Michael Buckley (baritone
saxophone); Bruce Fairbairn (trumpet); Henry Daag (saw); Randy Raine-Reusche (percussion).
Producers: Bruce Fairbairn, The Cranberries. Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios,
Dublin, Ireland in November and December 1995. The songs on the Cranberries'
third album touch on painful topics, dealing mainly with loss and the
difficulties of growing toward true adulthood. Tragic inspirations include the
deaths of singer-lyricist Dolores O'Riordan's grandfather ("Joe") and
John Lennon ("I Shot John Lennon"); some import pressings also include
"Cordell," an elegy for Denny Cordell, who signed the Cranberries to
Island Records in 1991. Much of this material is bittersweet, but the songs are
saved from dreary melancholy by the characteristic quirky Cranberries sound of
O'Riordan's angelic voice, scattered with her trademark yelps and other vocal
tics, juxtaposed against energetic, hard-edged guitar work by O'Riordan and Noel
Hogan. In addition to the newly mature lyrics, there is also a new, rougher-edged
sound to this album's production, which puts the music within easy reach and
lends TO THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED an earthy appeal.
hard-rocking producer Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith, AC-DC, Van Halen) at their
side in Dublin last winter, this alternative band with strong Celtic influences
hasn't turned into KISS overnight.
But a preoccupation with death (I Just Shot John Lennon, Joe), war (War Child, Bosnia) and drugs (Salvation) appear on the follow-up to 1994's phenomenally successful No Need To Argue, which has sold five million copies and counting.
While the band's strong views on such somber subject matter works eloquently on the string-accompanied War Child, written in a mere 10 minutes by lead singer Dolores O'Riordan after she sang with Luciano Pavarotti at a benefit for Bosnian relief, there are times when it comes across as preachy.
Like on the first, initially catchy single Salvation (thanks in large part to a cool horn section), which becomes irritating with repeated listenings.
"To all those people doing lines, don't do it, don't do it, Inject your soul with liberty, it's free, it's free," sings O'Riordan.
I Shot John Lennon also gets dangerously close to offending, despite its undeniably powerful pop groove.
And once again, O'Riordan's vocal gymnastics are a love-or-hate proposition throughout.
Check out the upbeat Free To Decide, Forever Yellow Skies, The Rebels, or the ballads Electric Blue and I'm Still Remembering for the most straight-forward and enjoyable approach.
- Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun
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