Irish band and former international phenomenon The Cranberries are back with Roses, their sixth album, and the first many New Zealanders will have heard from them since their 1996 tour. Best known for their 90s singles Linger and Zombie, The Cranberries disbanded in 2003 to concentrate on solo projects and reunited in 2009. During their time out singer Dolores O’Riordan released two solo albums Are You Listening (2007) and No Baggage (2009). O’Riordan’s solo sound was a more wistful, grown-up take on The Cranberries, and that is the direction the band has continued to take on Roses.
The Cranberries, with their quirky pop sensibility and feisty frontwoman, were a match made in heaven for the 90s. Perfectly accompanying Alanis Morrisette, The Cardigans, Garbage, Sinead O’Connor and Bjork on the airwaves, O’Riordan embodied the fragile yet feisty chanteuse ideal of the era. Sixteen years on from their last New Zealand concert, when show-off sexuality and girl-gone-wild theatrics are now the order of the day, are The Cranberries still relevant?
None of the songs on Roses have the urgency or anger of Linger or Zombie, leaving O’Riordan’s patchy lyric-writing up for closer examination. “It’s raining in my heart every time we are apart”, “got a pain in my heart whenever we are apart” and “have you ever have an empty heart? Did you think it’d ever fall apart?” are lyrics from three separate songs. This might be cute if they were sung by a Chinese schoolgirl for whom English was a second language, but the fact they were written by one of Ireland’s richest women, who is a seasoned music professional, is slightly terrifying.
Though many of her vocal inflections and snatches of melody could have been lifted off earlier Cranberries albums, there is something sweet, timeless and original about O’Riordan’s voice. Musically she may be veering into Enya territory these days, but the emotion in her voice transcends her lyrics. There’s no doubt that O’Riordan can hold an audience in the palm of her hand.
Roses is most likely to be enjoyed by existing fans of The Cranberries who have grown up with them and will appreciate their more mature world view. However if you are lucky enough to be going to their March 15 concert you’re bound to have a mesmerizing (if somewhat retro) experience.
Kathryn van Beek
Click here to listen to Tomorrow from Roses: