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The Cranberries - Limerick’s Dreamweavers

When Glastonbury announced its female-free roster of headliners for this year’s festival, it was a stark reminder of just how far the music industry still has to come in terms of equality.

Women have always been outnumbered by men in the industry and their accomplishments, whether it be the record-breaking sales figures of Sister Rosetta Tharpe - the first black woman to sell a million records in America - or Carol Kaye’s bass lines quietly propelling the hits of The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra, women’s contributions have often been downplayed, dismissed or just plain erased.

Unfortunately, this attitude is as prevalent in Ireland as anywhere else in the world but, thankfully, views are changing and female acts in Ireland now have a far greater chance of achieving success than ever before.

This is in no small part down to the achievements of artists such as Róisín Murphy, The Corrs, Enya, Sinead O’Connor and others that showed younger generations of girls that it was possible to have a career in music.

Perhaps the most influential artist on today’s crop of Irish female acts is Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries who showed them it was possible to achieve global success without compromising who they were.

Formed in 1989 as The Stones Roses were lighting the kindling for Brit Pop with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, The Cranberries emerged from Limerick armed with something that simply couldn’t be faked - the worldview of a young Irish woman.

There was an otherworldliness and stark simplicity to Dolores O’Riorden’s lyrical refrains, opining small town dreams and coming-of-age scenarios that beguiled a global audience in a way that nobody ever could have expected.

The refreshingly unfiltered narrative of the material from a female perspective is now the expected norm for artists such as Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift, but at the time it was ground-breaking.

Inspired by the jangle pop of the UK charts, the Limerick quartet completed by Noel Hogan (lead guitar), Mike Hogan (bass guitar), and Fergal Lawler (drums) acquired the services of producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur) to help them achieve their vision and decamped to Dublin’s Windmill Studios.  

30 years on from the release of their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We?’ (1993), the influence of The Cranberries on modern culture is palpable. Singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’ remain radio staples, regularly covered by modern artists such as Japanese Breakfast, and frequently appear in TV shows such as Derry Girls, so much so that Pitchfork dubbed them the Ultimate Teen Soundtrack Band in 2018.

The success of ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’ propelled The Cranberries onto the world stage and the dreaded comparisons to U2 soon followed. It wasn’t long before they were lumped in with British contemporaries such as Suede under the Brit Pop tag.

Keen to show that they were more than a flash in the pan, the group set about working with Stephen Street once again on their second album ‘No Need To Argue’ (1994), recording in The Magic Shop in New York, The Manor Studios, Oxford and the Townhouse Studios, London.

Along with working with Street, the album’s cover would also hark back to their debut album featuring the group pictured on the same couch as ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We?’ Perhaps the most popular couch in the history of rock’n’roll, it also featured in the video for Supergrass’ breakthrough hit single ‘Alright’.

Whilst still embracing the wistful jangle pop of its predecessor with singles such as ‘I Can’t Be With You’ and ‘Ode To My Family’, ‘No Need To Argue’ saw The Cranberries leaving behind teenage concerns, embracing a darker sound best exemplified by The Icicle Melts, which examined the murder of James Bulger in Liverpool by two 10-year-old boys and ‘Zombie’, which was inspired by The IRA bombing of Warrington the previous year. Despite its controversial nature, ‘Zombie’ remains The Cranberries’ most enduring song.

Having moved beyond their erstwhile beginnings, The Cranberries set about redefining themselves in the face of global superstardom, going on to release six further albums throughout their career.

Their final albumIn The Endwas completed using demo recordings following the untimely death of Dolores O’Riordan by drowning in January 2018. Having produced five of The Cranberries’ previous seven albums, Stephen Street was the obvious choice to help the group piece ‘In The End’ together.

Posthumous albums can be tricky affairs but ‘In The End’ has to be one of the best. This is in no doubt down to the fact that rather than a collection of unfinished odds and ends, the band had been working on the material for some time prior to O’Riordan’s death. Songs such as ‘All Over Now’ ‘Got It’ and ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ are fine additions to The Cranberries canon and indicate that The Cranberries may have been entering a purple patch in their career. ‘In The End’ is certainly much more than an album for die-hard fans.      

Of course, if you want to tip your toes into The Cranberries for the first time, you can’t go wrong with either of their greatest hit compilations.

 2002’s Stars (The Best of 1992-2002) features hit singles such as ‘Salvation’ and ‘When You’re Gone’ from ‘To The Faithful Departed’ (1996) ‘Animal Instinct’ and ‘Promises’ from ‘Bury The Hatchet’ (1999), ‘Analyse’ and ‘This Is the Day’ from ‘‘Wake Up and Smell The Coffee’ (2001) as well as previously unreleased tracks ‘Stars’ and ‘New New York’

2012’s Dreams The Collection’, meanwhile, is primarily drawn from the group's 1990s output and is guaranteed to deliver all of the songs you know and love from the group’s early career such as ‘Linger’, ‘Zombie’ and, of course, ‘Dreams’.

Stephen Byrne