1996, Music

To the Faithful Departed (1996) by The Cranberries

I know this is not “the big one” but I was actually surprised how many of the singles from this record which I remembered, dare I say almost fondly. (I guess this means I’m getting old enough to just be happy to hear the music of my teens, even when I didn’t like it at the time!) I figure it’s because I was in high school and these songs must have been relatively everywhere. But it was still a big surprise.

Speaking of those singles, the sequencing on this record is not good. The first four songs are the singles. Sure, the discrepancy between catchiness of the singles and the deep cuts is not as extreme as it is on some albums but still…

Fortunately O’Riordan is a pretty good songwriter as these things go, so the terrible sequencing decision isn’t as disastrous as it often is. And I do generally like her as a songwriter – she’s more literate than some and she has enough melodies to mostly support the length of this album. At least one of those melodies is a little too close to “Zombie” at times, but that’s gonna happen, I guess.

Of course it’s her voice that’s the main draw here. The reason they were nearly-world-conquering for a couple of years is because they have catchy songs and because we North Americans love nothing more than a distinctive Irish voice in contemporary music. (Or, at least, in the ’90s we sure did love it.)

But my issues with this album are the same as with No Need to Argue and the way this band positions themselves overall: they flirt with grunge but are rarely raw enough to be mistaken for grunge and they are a little too polished for the raw emotion of their singer. At times they go slightly rootsy but it’s never really convincing. They feel very “modern rock” to me: distorted guitars but not too distorted, echoes of previous rock eras in the arrangements and songs but nothing too traditional, just very middle of the road.

And honestly I wonder if I would hate this if it wasn’t for her voice (and the qualify of her songs). Like, if some American dude was singing, I would probably be shitting on this record for how boring it is. (Alternatively, if the songs were worse I might be complaining about its length.)

I guess I just wish they were more committed to something other than the middle of the road: be more rootsy, or be louder and angrier, or be artier.


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