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The Cranberries: Roses
There are only so many expectations a long-awaited album can handle, especially after a ten year-long hiatus. The Cranberries were largely missed by their fans and the lead singer Dolores O’Riordan's fresh voice and the band’s subtle instruments were continually in demand. Thus, it’s refreshing to see the Irish quartet easily pick up where they left off, making a comeback with the album Roses.
The tracks sound like classic pop-rock hits yet present something new in their own way. Roses starts on a not-so-cheerful note with ‘Conduct’, which is one of the best tracks on the album. The song speaks of a relationship on a brink of a break-up, however strengthens it towards the end by remembering its good parts as well. The album then shows a playful side with the song ‘Tomorrow’, which encompasses light guitar riffs and motivating lyrics.
‘Fire and Soul’ slowly starts with an electronic drum, but then melts into a synched melody of guitars and violins, as O’Riordan sings the lyrics “I’ll wait for you forever/ I’ll take you to my grave”. The melody, however, is too simple and becomes repetitive. And just as the album trots along, 'Schizophrenic Playboy' comes with a strong rock arrangement that presents the darkest part of the album.
However, any notions of this being a rock album vanish quickly. The album then returns once more to its slow pace; mixing between The Cranberries’ old style and a hint of a fresher sound that makes up for the missing years. In the title track ‘Roses’, the lyrics reflect on O’Riordan’s father’s illness. Pain and desperation are more or less the general tone of the album as a whole.
Roses is a mellow, soft return for The Cranberries. If you’re looking for a course-changing record, you won’t find it here; you’ll instead find emotive lyrics that venture deeply with their meanings and are matched with melancholic, soothing tunes. This just may be enough to satisfy for another ten years to come.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when it's time for reflection; time to escape the rat race and go back to basics. Usually, this time is spent at some desolate place, like a cabin in the woods or some far away beach on a desert island; somewhere one can fully recharge and shift their focus back to what’s really important.
English singer-songwriter, Ed Harcourt, seems to have done just that on his new record Back into the Woods. But instead of a cabin in the woods or a tropical beach resort, Harcourt went back to basics at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. The nine songs were written in a month and recorded in just six hours.
The end result is melancholic, but utterly beautiful, in all its naked simplicity. There’s a piano, an electric guitar and his wife on the violin, but that is all Harcourt has taken with him to create this record. The use of dubbed vocals on a handful of tracks, and an organ beefing up the bare framework of the song ‘Brothers and Sisters’, is as frivolous as this album gets.
It seems Harcourt returning to basics has paved the way for some lyrical introspection, as well. “You’ve got the good bits from your mother and the bad parts from me” and “pay no heed to good advice” he sings to his daughter on ‘Hey Little Bruiser’. He serenades his wife on ‘Wandering Eye’ as he muses, “I remember when I first saw you/I couldn’t move I was paralysed,” and on ‘The Pretty Girls’ he states “I always feel like the monster in this fairy tale."
In ‘The Cusp and the Wane’ the singer-songwriter tells us that Mozart died a pauper and that William Blake was ridiculed. “Let’s hear it for the underdog,” he sings – he might as well be singing about himself.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery how Jeff Buckley-esque singers and songwriters, such as Rufus Wainwright and Damien Rice, have managed to amass huge fan followings over the years, yet Harcourt still operates under the radar of the general music-loving audience.
It’s not like he hasn’t got the talent. Harcourt’s oeuvre is littered with brilliant compositions, most notably on the Mercury Prize nominated' Here Be Monsters (2001), The Beautiful Lie (2006) and Lustre (2010). They can certainly compete with the musical accomplishments of the likes of Rice, Wainwright and even Buckley, yet somehow, until now, Harcourt has failed to get as much attention. And that’s a real shame.
So here’s a free tip if you’re into singer-songwriters (especially the aforementioned ones): do yourself a favour and buy not only Back into the Woods, but Harcourt’s entire seven album discography. You won’t regret it.