The Orange County Register newspaper posted an “Are you listening?” review on May 17. Fans, just keep breathing:
Cranberries vocalist resurrects ye olde ’90s rock
I take the title question of the former Cranberries singer’s first solo album, “Are You Listening?,” as if it’s asking me whether I’ve been paying attention to the sort of portentous, heavily dramatic Irish rock that O’Riordan and Sinead O’Connor and, um, pretty much nobody else worth remembering once made, back when the ’80s were becoming the ’90s.
Answer: No, apart from having to endure Evanescence whenever it’s unavoidable, I haven’t listened to that sort of thing since Sinead made “Universal Mother’ in ‘94. I have a good reason, I think: Too much of that sound can begin to drone on and on, especially when the songwriting fails the atmosphere. Sinead’s “The Lion and the Cobra” and “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” – and, I should add, the first two Cranberries albums – sustain interest through variety, dynamics, resonant melodies and lyrics full of escapist wonder and heartbreaking solace.
But while I haven’t listened to that since “Universal Mother,” I havekept listening to Sinead, because her evolution remains fascinating; two years ago she movingly explored her love of Jamaican music and philosophy, this June she unveils a double- disc focused on “Theology.” O’Riordan, on the other hand, has returned after six years of nothing more than cameos, with an album that reveals her stuck in time yet sometimes desperately trying to sound modern.
Sonically, that is. Lyrically she’s inspired by current personal matters – her husband, the death of her grandmother. But while I’ll grant that, say, “Black Widow” (that’s the one for Grandma) is more listenable than Evanescence – in part because it’s half an homage to the feel of Enya and Clannad – it’s nonetheless a prime example of what’s wrong with this comeback e ort: It too often sounds like O’Riordan and co-producer Youth (shaper of booming U2 and Verve productions) are trying to make the same ol’ Cranberries sound salable to a younger demographic.
When, frankly, the same ol’ Cranberries sound wasn’t so salable the first time around. O’Riordan’s fluttering voice would have had to hiccup up a half-dozen more memorable hits for that. I bet there are staunch fans of her approach who will glom onto this in a major way. If the title question is anything like what I think it is, then Dolores is right to wonder if anyone at all has been listening. Whaddya expect? They’ve been starved. So let ‘em feast.
Me, I’m on hunger strike.