THE CRANBERRIES – Something Else
Released April 28th on BMG
An orchestral rendering of their seminal hits with brand new material
Coincides with major European Tour this May
In the autumn of 2013, as her hometown of Limerick was preparing to open its tenure as Irish City of Culture in 2014, The Cranberries singer-songwriter Dolores O’Riordon was approached by the city to play a special gig. On New Year’s Eve, she would perform with a quartet from the Irish Chamber Orchestra, playing four songs from her starred back catalogue – three Cranberries, one solo – on a stage erected outside city hall. ‘It was a beautiful night,’ she recalls.
At that moment, singing songs that have endured a generation, punctuating pleasingly diverse points of the cultural graph, from glossy high-end car ads to Mission:Impossible soundtracks to becoming time-honoured radio staples, immediately identifiable from the tender fury of Dolores’ vocal phrasing, she realised an anniversary was coming up. The following year, 2015, was to mark 25 years since the beginning of The Cranberries, the Irish band that would dominate a particular corner of the 90s. You might place The Cranberries early suite of albums as an emotional mid-point on the trajectory from The Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, 10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, records exploring a new, uncompromised, compelling femininity bridging a further gap between indie aesthetics and unexpected, huge global success.
Certainly, The Cranberries had no less impact than any of their companion pieces, drawn in a post-Madonna climate of empowerment. The figures stacked up. By 2000, Cranberries till receipts for their first four records Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t I, No Need to Argue, To The Faithful Departed and Bury The Hatchet had amassed to over 40million. Immediately, they were blessed with a kind of US success other bands take ten years trying to secure, with a hit rate and notoriety that perhaps only indigenous stars U2 and Sinead O’Connor could match.
Dolores was 18 years old when The Cranberries began. ‘Really,’ she says, ‘I was just a child back then.’ She’d been out of Ireland only once, to see her sister in London. ‘I was an innocent eighteen-year-old, as well. I was not a mature one. I was more like a fifteen-year-old.’ When REM’s Michael Stipe turned up to watch them film the video for their omnipresent debut hit, Linger, a whisper of a song that scorches with love’s own fire, Dolores had no idea why. ‘When we came back from America, we met Bono, at about the same time. He was ever so nice to us.’ These mysterious encounters continued across the decade. ‘I was probably very lucky that the songs got to be so successful but it also had its downsides, like growing up in the public eye. I didn’t have a normal transition from high school into college or the real world. It was heightened. Success was overwhelming to me, really. And when you become successful at that level you’re so busy working that you don’t have any time to look at it and work out what it is you’re going through.’
25 years later, perhaps now was the moment to reassess. An unusual request from The Bachelorette, the US TV show for competing girls to win the hand of a handsome, eligible young man was the touchstone putting Dolores back in touch with Cranberries co-writer Noel Hogan after the band’s hiatus since 2012. The show producers asked them to serenade the couple on their last date for the season finale, filmed in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. Though she has been based between Canada, New York and Ireland over the past few years, it is the latter that will influence forever the singer, the band, the soul of The Cranberries. With The Bachelorette airing to almost 10million US viewers, a new generation was keen to find out more.
Touched by the orchestral re-evaluation of a selection of her greatest hits, with the anniversary clock ticking in the back of her mind, a new audience hungry to flesh out the details of a band apt to be left out of the great 90s rock cannon, the idea of an acoustic, orchestral rendering of the greatest moments from the Cranberries first four records began to ferment. ‘It felt like something old and something new to commemorate what we’d achieved,’ says Dolores. ‘With the Irish Chamber Orchestra, similar to what we’d done on the New Year’s Eve show.’
Over two weeks in the University of Limerick last year, at the home of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the band revisited old times in new clothes dusting away any cobwebs with strings. Dolores laid down vocals as small booths were created to record the instruments as if live. She was no longer a child, singing her amazing, mature songs from an inexperienced vantage point but a woman now, with the capacity to throw her life at the music, the benefit of hindsight. ‘I prefer them like this,’ she says of the new recordings of old songs, ‘with a little bit more experience behind them, with a new lease of life. They sound fresh again.’
Since their 90s commercial peak, The Cranberries have not been an inactive operation. They still tour and record to the faithful, massive audience they amassed (including a devoted social media following of over 4 million Facebook Likes), with songs touched with both the immediacy of hit-maker hooks and the timelessness of classics. ‘I was used to singing the hits, because we always do them live,’ she says. ‘You get a great high from the crowd from every one.’ At their last dates, they played to over 40,000 hungry Cranberries fans in Peru at the prestigious Vivo X El Rock 8 Festival (headlined in 2015 by Limp Bizkit) and thousands more in Mexico. In fact it was the return to South America that gave Dolores an idea for the record jacket, to fly over iconic rock image-maker Andy Earl, the photographer who had shot them way back when for the cover of Everybody Else Is Doing It… ‘I said, shall we see if Andy’s available? Literally two days later he flew out. He was brilliant. It was good to see him again. We sat in the same place and took the shots.’ The past and present were coalescing.
As the record began to take full shape, three new songs were added, to stop it just being a Proustian rush of memories lost and found. The first was The Glory, which Dolores explains she wrote in The Irish Chamber Orchestra’s rehearsal rooms at the University of Limerick. ‘I was trying to think about the fact that there’s always hope, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark life can get. It can be difficult at times but you have to search for the light and the positive in things.’ She brought out two songs from her personal stash in the last couple of years, waiting to find a home: Rupture (‘It’s about depression, about being in that black hole and finding it hard to get out of it’) and first single single Why? (‘written just after my father passed, the hardest time’).
It’s testament to Dolores and Noel’s song-writing prowess that the new additions to the Cranberries cannon sit seamlessly next to the old – to Zombie, Dreams, Ridiculous Thoughts and Ode to my Family – all accompanied by sumptuous new string arrangements, drawn from richly fertilised Irish soil, distilled in a grand temple of academia. ‘I started pretty young, writing songs,’ says Dolores, ‘I was maybe 12. I had no idea why I did it; it was just something within me that wanted to get out.’ She says she is proud of the old songs, too. ‘Yes, I am. I do allow myself a moment of that. But life’s so hectic you don’t get much chance to. I guess that was what this new record was about.’
When they began finalising details for the record, they decided on Something Else, a nod to the first record’s Everybody Else…, a title neither riven with the promise of future endeavours or locked into the past. ‘It’s not a certain title,’ says Dolores. ‘It’s not saying that there’s going to be more and it’s not saying this is a grand finale, either, it’s who knows if there’s going to be more? I think it ties back to the first record quite nicely. I don’t have any idea what’s in store for us. It’s not the nineties anymore, that’s for sure. And neither would I want it to be. Hopefully, there is more to come. Hopefully the fans will like what we’ve done with the songs here. I suppose you wonder how long your songs will live for. I think ours have been very lucky.’