- 26 Jan 12
It smells like they've never been away.
Roses is The Cranberries’ first album since 2001’s Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. After taking a sabbatical in 2003, individual members diversified into solo projects. Most notably, Dolores O’Riordan released two stand-alone records in 2007 and 2009. However, given their enduring popularity, a reunion was all but inevitable, and the band duly went out on the road together two years ago, playing to packed houses across Europe and the US. And why not? If everybody else is doing it why can’t they?
Many band reunions are a damp squib of course. But Roses is different. From the outset, it is clear that this is no bargain basement catalogue-filler to wring a few more dollars from an established brand name. What we get instead is a full-on Cranberries offering, chocful of the kind of tuneful alt.rock that has seen the band’s most enduring work (‘Linger’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Zombie’) become radio staples, while many of their contemporaries and detractors have faded into insignificance.
Long gone are the early influences of acts like The Sundays: the band have established their own trademark sound, not least via tight but tuneful band arrangements topped off with Dolores’ fine, emphatic vocals. But far from stagnating, Roses’ thoughtful use of guitars and drums serves as a timely reminder that there are still areas to be explored within the idiom by those with the appropriate creative instincts. There is lots here that fans will enjoy – but more than a few surprises too.
Stephen Street is again in the producer’s chair, which has to be a good thing. The album starts with the decidedly languorous ‘Conduct’, suggesting a renewed confidence: great bands know that you don’t always have to go for the jugular straight away. It heralds an optimistic feel that is evident throughout the new album, perhaps best exemplified by the crisp and infectious ‘Tomorrow’, with its carpe diem lyrics and Dolores in top vocal form as she sings “I know that you’re mad/ You spend a lot of time in your head.”
‘Show Me’ is vintage Cranberries, sturdy percussion and evocative guitars dressed in warm strings setting the perfect aural backdrop for Dolores’ muscular vocal. Her hushed reverence on ‘Fire and Soul’ evokes Sinéad O’Connor, a comparison that has raised its head in the past, but here with the overdubbed doo-doohs revealing a light-hearted playfulness. The track is fleshed out sweetly by an accordion which reappears for the laid back ‘Astral Projections’. But the real charmer is the presumably autobiographical ‘Waiting In Walthamstow’ in which O’Riordan’s wonderful voice is wrapped lovingly in autumnal strings. It’s a deeply affecting rocker, full of melancholy. Those strings are in evidence again on ‘Show Me’, confirming that The Cranberries can do lush as well.
Not that it’s all perfect. ‘Losing My Mind’ fails to convince and the mainly acoustic ‘So Good’ is more filler than killer. While you might question the placing of the title-track after the more strident anthems that precede it, there’s no gainsaying its enchanting folksy quality, complete with deliciously sinewy electric guitar. All told then, Roses showcases a band reinvigorated by their time off – and eager to re-enter the fray with renewed determination and energy. Time to wake up and smell the roses, perhaps?