The record company hyperbole enthusiastically heralds The Cranberries’ fifth album, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, as a return to the phenomenally successful Irish band’s roots, and for once, it seems the label’s hype is justified.
That’s not an entirely good thing, though. Parts of this record are so derivative of the band’s earlier work, it is surprising it has not been titled Everybody Else Is Doing It. Why Don’t We Do It Again?
Stephen Street may well be behind the producer’s chair again for the first time since he produced No Need to Argue, but that’s no reason for rehashing the band’s most successful moments for consumption seven years later.
If you don’t believe me, take a listen to “This Is the Day”, an anthemic, electrified song so uncannily similar to the band’s mega-hit “Zombie”, that you find yourself humming the original throughout the verse. Likewise first single “Analyse”, which rips-off the Cranberries’ first-ever single “Dreams” and all its breezy, Celtic jangle-pop charm. Both songs are strong and memorable, but fail to shine on their own terms so reminiscent are they of what’s been before.
Elsewhere, the album manages to hint at the sound that made their name without a recycling operation that would make Friends of the Earth proud. Opening track “Never Grow Old” is a delicate and possibly odd choice to start the album with, but sounds wonderfully vulnerable and pretty despite some pretty turgid lyrics: “Birds in the sky / They look so high / This is my perfect day”.
O’Riordan (or O’Riordan-Burton as it is since her marriage), has, as the content of this song hints at, become a parent again during recording, and it shows with a number of similarly-influenced songs. However, the breathlessly sung “Pretty Eyes” is one such personal track that perhaps should have stayed that way. The excellent “Time Is Ticking Out”, on the other hand, laments the future for O’Riordian’s offspring and the rest of their generation with typical Cranberries pessimism.
There’s plenty of filler on Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, but once you get past the bland “Carry On”, the even duller “Chocolate Brown” and one or two others notable for their lack of melody, there are a few worthwhile moments. The acoustic pop of “Every Morning” could certainly be a hit, “I Really Hope” has an immediacy lacking in much of the rest of the album, and “The Concept” is a laid back fusion of modern leanings and the Cranberries’ classic sound.
The Cranberries have, in a sense, come full circle with Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, and this may mean that in an ever-changing industry, their Celtic-flavoured alternative pop can’t go much further. The band at least manage to sound less depressed than on previous recent albums, and although this isn’t a bad record, the fact they resort to plagiarizing their best work means the obligatory Greatest Hits swansong can’t be too far away.
// Notes from the Road
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