The Cranberries are undoubtedly one of the most influential Irish Rock bands of all time, touting an impressive 40 million record sales worldwide. Seminal album Everyone Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? Followed by the runaway success of No Need To Argue sent the Limerick natives stratospheric, predominantly due to the popularity of malaise ridden anthem ‘Zombie’. O’Riordans’ harsh, warbling 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.
25 years on from the groups’ 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 group 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 possess. 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, stranded in some realm of musical purgatory.
Ignoring the lost potential for something truly great, the songs have generally aged well. ‘Ode To My Family’ and ‘Linger’ are just as moving and gripping after all these years and thankfully, O’Riordans’ voice has not fallen foul to father time.
When examining the three new songs, 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 publicized 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 fathers 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 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 an abstract collection of both. It’s difficult to grasp what exactly the goal of this new album is, it will perhaps reintroduce the alt-rock 4 piece to the public, but it more than likely will 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, this is merely a taster of things to come.