Saturday, April 29, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 999: Cranberries

I’m just back from my first game of Ultimate Frisbee for 2017 and I’m feeling stiff and sore, but happy.

Five albums I ordered online arrived this week, and I gave them their maiden voyage last night. I’m not reviewing them now, but here’s a teaser:
  • Ages and Ages “Alright You Restless” and “Divisionary”. Choral indie pop that just makes you feel good.
  • Andrew Combs “All These Dreams” – mopey indie folk. I have a bit of buyer’s remorse on this one, but I have a feeling it is better on headphones, which is how I first heard it.
  • Sera Cahoone “From Where I Started” – Sera Cahoone is one of my favourite new discoveries. Check out my reviews of her previous two records if you want to read me wax poetic about her.
  • Ancient Empire “Other World” – I am just getting into the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, and this is one of the genre’s better offerings.
OK, on to some music that has been in my collection a long time.

Disc 999 is…No Need to Argue
Artist: The Cranberries

Year of Release: 1994

What’s up with the Cover? A classic nineties cover – the band sits around on a couch, looking pensive. I guess the couch is OK, but this room needs a floor lamp or a TV or something. And maybe a chair, so that guy on the left will be able to sit down properly.

I’m also pretty sure this is the same sofa from their earlier album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” (reviewed back at Disc 446). On that cover they once again don’t have enough places to sit, but a different guy (the guy on the right) is left out. I guess they take turns using the couch.

How I Came To Know It: I liked the Cranberries first album, and I heard a couple songs off of this one on MuchMusic and liked them as well, so it seemed like a pretty safe bet.

How It Stacks Up:  The Cranberries have seven studio albums but I only have two. Of the two, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” is my favourite, dropping “No Need to Argue” into second.

Ratings: 2 stars but almost 3

The Cranberries were the quintessential nineties indie band, playing pop melodies that tried very hard to express angst and confusion but just always seemed a little too…happy.

That happiness comes from the up tempo music, and the lush production values, where keyboards, guitars, bass and drums all cycle around one another in a joyful susurrus of sound.

Vocalist Dolores O’Riordan is the treasure here, and her Irish lilt curls itself around the lush production, grounding it with a healthy helping of angst the lyrics demand. The combination lets you wallow a little in the uncertainty of youth, without falling into full depression. For this I’m very thankful; the nineties were morose enough.

The notable exception is “Zombie” which is full-on raw and angry, as it explores the ongoing violence and unrest in the band’s home country of Ireland. This isn’t a song about zombies, but instead the way hate can turn anyone into a mindless monster. O’Riordan’s vocals range from soft and sad to rough and powerful, with the music also shifting from light and thoughtful to full-blown crunchy rock guitar. Despite having been badly overplayed over the years, it holds up very well.

The other hit, “Ode to My Family” is the light to “Zombie’s” dark, as O’Riordan’s voice takes on a sweetness as she sings about her family having her back.

The rest of the record is solid, but not spectacular. “Empty” is pretty and while it is a little maudlin, it was fun to wallow in it in my early twenties. Also, the way O’Riordan sings “empty-eee-eee” over and over again is haunting and poignant.

Other songs like “The Icicle Melts” and “Disappointment” try to accomplish the same emotional rawness, but land a little flat, and lack direction. They’re not bad, but when you are trying to dig deep, anything short of devastating will have a tincture of insincerity.

Daffodil Lament” is an ambitious six minutes long and a slow builder that shouldn’t work, but it does, partly because it is just pleasant to hear O’Riordan sing “and the daffodils look lovely today” over and over again. They must look really lovely, because she says it a lot, but I didn’t mind. Since when is more flowers a bad thing?

There are places the album feels a bit twee, but in my early twenties I didn’t notice. And besides, I’d rather an album be overly sentimental than not sentimental at all, which is the problem with some modern indie music. If the Cranberries seem to sigh a little heavily, at least they’re not afraid to share their pain.

Overall, this album doesn’t speak to me emotionally the way it did when I was 24, but there are enough solid tracks on it that I’m keeping it in the collection. I expect every now and then when I’m feeling nostalgic I’ll pull it down and put it on.

Best tracks: Ode to My Family, Zombie, Empty, Daffodil Lament

1 comment:

Gord Webster said...

It was really odd, but when we went to Mexico in 2007, Zombie was playing everywhere down there. I mush have heard it a half a dozen or more times while we were there. Why an english song that was 13 years old was popular there in 2007, I always wondered about.