There are so many ’90s alternative albums which I thought I ignored when they came out but I must have heard at some point. Like so many of those, when I put this on, I thought I just knew the singles. And then I remembered other songs. And I was confused. I don’t ever specifically remember sitting down to listen to this record so I must have caught some of these through the ether, or maybe somebody I know has some of them in a playlist or something. Anyway…
What is it about the Irish that the rest of find so alluring? Put an Irish voice to an otherwise normal song – especially a female Irish voice – and the rest of the English-speaking world falls in love. Some singers feel like they need to disguise their accents, but it feels to me as if for Irish singers its always an asset.
So yes, O’Riordan’s voice is a huge selling point for this record and a big part of why it was so successful. But her songs are part of it too. She has a strong sense of melody but, far more importantly, I think, is her songwriting voice which, even all these years later, feels fresh and distinct – like a more muscular, less angry and more reflective Sinead. (Sorry, that’s the most lazy comparison I could make.)
The arrangements are less successful, verging dangerously close to post grunge if not outright embracing it. When the band gets loud it feels like it’s an imitation of other loud bands and they’re better off staying in their lane. I haven’t heard their debut but I wouldn’t be surprised if the arrangements were stronger on that record, if only because they weren’t grunged up a tad. Fortunately O’Riordan’s voice saves the day and the clear passion she has for her lyrics convinces you that this isn’t some post grunge imitation of actual emotion.