REVIEW: The Cranberries memorialize late lead singer with “In The End”

Endings are a rite of passage, but that doesn’t make them any easier. Loss is something we all experience at some point, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

On January 15th, 2018, lead singer Dolores O’Riordan of hit band The Cranberries was found dead in a London hotel room due to drowning. This tragic event rattled fans everywhere, and the band announced that they would be disbanding after releasing a final album in April of 2019. As a popular 90s band known for hit singles “Linger” and “Zombie,” The Cranberries depended greatly on O’Riordan’s voice. “The Cranberries were the four of us,” band member Noel Hogan said in an interview. “We don’t want to do this without Dolores. So we’re going to leave it after this.”

The album In The End (released April 26) uses demo recordings that O’Riordan  made while she was still alive. With her voice woven through every song, the emotional finale of the band’s lifespan successfully captures who she was as a singer, who she was as a person, and who the band was with her influence. O’Riordan was a passionate singer with an iconic voice, and ‘In the End’ captures her in her moment, singing her heart out with all the angst and hopeful sadness that The Cranberries have been known for since the 90’s.

In the End features songs that explore topics like love and loss, moving on and recovering, sadness, and hope. “All Over Now,” the first track of the album, (and the album’s only radio single so far) begins with the chilling reminder of her passing, as listeners hear the demo recording call out “Remember that night, in a hotel in London?” Similarly, the rest of the album is also seasoned with reminders. From “Lost,” to “Wake Me When It’s Over,” to “In the End,” The Cranberries don’t shy away from tragedy. Rather, they acknowledge it, and from its ashes they create something noteworthy.

The album’s lyrics stay true to The Cranberries’ signature bittersweet style, as the songs follow a common theme: an escape from an abusive relationship. This theme comes to fruition in “All Over Now,” and stays strong throughout the entire track list. “Lost,” features a dismal refrain: “I’m lost with you, I’m lost without you,” perfectly encapsulating what it means to be in an unhealthy relationship with just a few simple words. This concept continues with “Illusion.” “I remember the crowd, it was loud, and it was something,” O’Riordan sings. “When you took control of my soul, then it was nothing.” The emotional lyrics have a lot of substance, and they demand a lot more from the instrumentals than the instrumentals deliver.

In the End is worth listening to due to its emotional and historical significance (The Cranberries are, after all, fairly iconic.)  However, just because the album’s sound is fully produced doesn’t mean the album is perfect. Many of the songs seem interchangeable, and most of the guitar chords seem tired and redundant. It’s music that can easily fade into the background, though much of The Cranberries’ catalog is a quiet soundtrack for the Nineties. There are some exceptions, like the lively “Got it” as well as “The Pressure,” that seem to stand out among the rest, but overall this album seems to fall short of expectations. “Illusion” and “Crazy Heart” are repetitive and, unfortunately, forgettable. Yet where the album may sometimes fall short, the intent remains true: This is a love letter to Dolores, and the album’s creation is likely what she would have wanted.

This is an album that’s deserving of respect. The Cranberries’ attempt to honor O’Riordan’s last days is nothing short of wonderful, and the artistic significance of the album as a whole makes up for the flaws it might have.  Perhaps the most impressive part of In the End is the fact that it’s pieced together completely from demo recordings, dusty remnants of the past that would otherwise be lost. But it still manages to stand strong as a complete and polished album.

The emotional final track “In the End” is clearly their way of letting O’Riordan say goodbye. “Ain’t it strange, when everything you wanted was nothing that you wanted in the end,” O’Riordan sings, bringing the existential finale to an end. Its bittersweet melody and pensive lyrics certainly renders this song the emotional climax of the album, and it’s the perfect way for The Cranberries to take their melancholy bow.

Alison Standish is a pop culture critic for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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