The Cranberries are undoubtedly one of the most influential Irish rock bands of all time, touting an impressive 40 million record sales worldwide. Their seminal album Everyone Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? which was followed by the runaway success of No Need To Argue sent the Limerick natives into the stratosphere, predominantly due to the malaise ridden anthem ‘Zombie’. Front-woman Dolores O’Riordan’s harsh, strained vocal performances were haunting and completely unique, capturing the imagination of music lovers both home and abroad. However, with the band going through various on-and-off spells since 2003, there is an entirely new generation of listeners untouched by the Cranberries magic, a thought that somewhat motivated the group to reassess their body of work.
Twenty-five years on from the group’s debut, Something Else is generally a peculiar release. A collection of old hits reimagined with string accompaniment (provided by the Irish Chamber Orchestra) interspersed with smatterings of new material. Upon first listen, it appears the Cranberries are merely marking their transition into a rock nostalgia act. The arrangements on the classic tracks are in no way different, merely stripped down to just an acoustic guitar coupled with a string quartet, which effectively dilutes the amazing potential this reimagining possesses. The 2017 incarnation of ‘Zombie’ is the apotheosis of this fatal hamartia, neither a stripped down acoustic iteration nor a bellowing orchestral effort – it’s somewhere languishing in the middle, lost in some realm of musical purgatory.
Ignoring the lost potential for something truly great, the songs have generally aged quite well. ‘Ode To My Family’ and ‘Linger’ are just as moving and gripping all these years on but O’Riordan’s once unmistakable soaring vocals fall foul to father time at points.
When examining the three new songs however, one can’t help but feel enthusiastic. The group appears invigorated and this fresh material is sumptuous. Sticking to The Cranberries cannon, these recent tracks are also inherently personal to O’Riordan and her much publicised troubles, with the song ‘Rupture’ unabashedly dealing with the dark depths of depression and the new single ‘Why?‘ which was written shortly after her own father’s passing. ‘Why?’ is indeed the shining light of this entire release, a melancholic and emotional 5 minutes of vintage Cranberries material. It is a testament to the quality of the track that it slips rather seamlessly in amongst the vintage hits of the band.
In summation, Something Else seems to be unsure of what exactly it is. It’s not a greatest hits, nor is it a new release – but a collection of both. It’s difficult to grasp what exactly the goal of this new album is, it will perhaps introduce some younger music lovers to their music but it will most definitely not garner them any new fans. This then, is a release for the die hards, the original fans, and maybe a testing of the waters to gather whether there is an audience for a fully-fledged album. Hopefully, there will be more to come.