Many bands aspire to be timeless, or have a sound that transcends the whims of musical fashion. But The Cranberries are one of the few to have achieved that. Play one of the Irish rock group’s early anthems such as “Linger” or “Dreams”, and they sound as fresh – and deliver as much of an emotional sucker-punch – as when they captured a generation’s hearts in the 1990s.
Now, nearly 30 years after the quartet of singer/songwriter and musician Dolores O’Riordan, co-songwriter and lead guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler first appeared, they are returning with their eighth album In the End. After the sad and unexpected passing of Dolores on January 15th 2018, it will be their last – and is among the most complete works they have ever produced.
It’s remarkable to look back and think just how how much of a cultural force The Cranberries have been, not only in the Ireland, UK and US, but across the globe: over their career, they have sold more than 40 million albums, making them one of the world’s biggest rock acts, as well as a staple on TV and film soundtracks. Through all their success, though, they have never compromised on their key trait: an honesty and directness that cuts to the soul.
Central to their expression of emotional truth, of course, has been Dolores’ inimitable voice. It was an instrument that could be angelically soft or blisteringly angry to equally stunning effect – and was a match for opera legend Luciano Pavarotti when they duetted on an enduringly stunning rendition of Ave Maria in 1995.
But the band’s power has also come from their gliding melodies and Dolores’ unvarnished lyrics, which were never less than absolutely sincere, whether she was writing about personal relationships or political violence – they all came back to “how human beings treat each other,” as she once described. “She truly didn’t really care what people thought about what she was going to say” says Noel. “It was a case of ‘If I feel strongly enough about this, I’m going to write about it, and whatever way the chips may fall, so be it. If I get slated for it, so be it.’”
It all started for the band back in the mid-1980s, when Lawler and the two Hogan brothers met as teenagers growing up in Limerick – and, sharing a love for groups like the Cure and the Smiths, decided to try their hand at rock music. Initially, they formed a quartet with a male singer, though after six months, in early 1990, he left – at which point he suggested his girlfriend’s friend, who came from Ballybricken, a small town outside Limerick, as a replacement.
When Dolores came to audition for them, a rural girl suddenly among city boys, she was “quiet as a mouse”, as Noel recalls – until she sang, that is. “We were immediately, blown away,” says Mike. “Her voice was something special.” Dolores, in turn, was enamoured by the boys. “I really liked what I heard; I thought they were nice and tight,” she later recalled. “It was a lovely potential band but they needed a singer – and direction.” There was no question that they had found their new fourth member…
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