[27 February 2012]
First off, a little back-story on the sixth Cranberries’ album and their first since 2001’s Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: after their 2002 greatest hits tour, the band reconvened in the studio with their longtime producer, Stephen Street and proceeded to begin work on some new material. After a few months work, they decided to take a break to pursue separate projects. But six months turned into eight years. Then in late 2009, they came back together and restarted work on several of the 2003 tracks. The result is the 11 tracks contained on the new album and boy, are some of them breathtaking.
The opening track, “Conduct,” sounds like something that would’ve been recorded in 1993 and in a way, that’s what a lot of Cranberries fans were hoping to hear on the record. The shimmering beauty of the song makes it one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. I’m a nostalgic purist by heart and so hearing something like “Conduct” just pulls the heartstrings because this is what I grew up listening to and to hear that they’ve barely changed a thing in over a decade is a marvelous thing to behold. All over the record, Dolores O’Riordan’s glorious voice is still the same as it ever was and it just helps the music swell and grow into something amazing.
“Tomorrow” is a classic Cranberries love song and is another song that the fans will be singing aloud at their shows. Some songs like “Fire & Soul” start off a bit sluggish but grow as they move along, but that’s something that a lot of Cranberries fans have come to expect over the years. The overall theme of the record, love and its joys and consequences, fits in beautifully with the record’s release, coming rout just after Valentine’s Day. “Raining in My Heart” has ‘single’ written all over it and hopefully, it wouldn’t have much of a struggle fitting on retro pop radio playlists.
“Losing My Mind” is one of the heaviest tracks on the record but that doesn’t take anything away from its beauty. Taking a cue from the electronic overtones of their last album, they combine the beats with their trademarked sound and create something that doesn’t sound dated or stale. On the other hand, “Schizophrenic Playboy” sounds like an outtake from To the Faithful Departed and that’s not something most people would be interesting to hear. But still to have only one dud on a whole album after being away for over a decade is not something many other artists of the Cranberries’ stature could pull off.
Other tracks, like the waltz-like “Waiting in Walthamstow” show the band willing to try something new and different and they deserve applause for still wanting to try new things and not stay in the same old sound. Then there are rockers like “Show Me” that show the band in their finest glory, proving they know what the audience wants and they’re not willing to change anything.
The ferocious but also restrained drumming of Fergal Lawler is on full display on Astral Projections” “and he’s still able to show why he’s one of the most dynamic drummers in alternative rock. The quiet strumming of Noel Hogan on “So Good” proves he’s able to showcase and step back whenever it’s necessary in order to heighten the intensity of the music, always with his brother Mike backing him on bass. The title track closes out the record and the acoustic guitar intro is absolutely gorgeous and helps to set the song down its beautiful route. Given all of the Cranberries’ hits and their achievements, this album stands as one of their high watermarks. Even after being away for so long, they’ve basically picked up right where they left off without any space and that’s almost impossible for any other band to do in this day and age.
Overall, this is shaping up to be one of the most amazing albums of the year and will definitely not disappoint any hardcore Cranberries fans and may help them pick up some new converts along the way.