The Cranberries
In The End

Delores O’Riordan is dead, she died on 15 January 2018 in a hotel room in London.  Hers was a shocking death, despite the fact she had her demons, all reports were she was in a good place early last year.  In the End is the rest of the Cranberries’, brothers Mike and Noel Hogan, and Fergal Lawler, final good-bye to their charismatic frontwoman.

Noel Hogan, who plays guitar and was the chief songwriter, began demoing material for the band’s next album whilst on tour for the last one, Something Else, in the spring of 2017.  Over the fall and winter of 2017, he sent his demos to O’Riordan in New York for her to record vocals.  The last of them arrived in his email inbox only hours before she died.  Throughout 2018, as part of their grieving process, the brothers Hogan and Lawlor completed the songs in the studio with their long-time producer, Stephen Street (who gained his fame producing the Smiths in the 80s).  They did discuss whether this was going to be a Cranberries’ album, but upon gaining the blessing of O’Riordan’s family, this became the final Cranberries album.

The results are impressive.  I don’t know if this is because she is dead, or not, to be honest.  But this is a beautiful and graceful album.  And difficult to listen to.  I generally have trouble with the last albums of artists I’ve liked or loved, I can’t listen to Leonard Cohen’s last one, or Gordon Downie’s last solo album.  This one, I can listen to, but it’s saddening.

This is especially due to some of O’Riordan’s lyrics, which are oddly prescient.  Album opener, ‘All Over Now,’ begins with: ‘Do you remember? Remember the night?  At a hotel in London.’  Eesh.  Throughout In The End, O’Riordan’s voice floats ethereally over the music, as it always has, ever since their début single, ‘Linger.’  She was in fine form on these demos, though the band and Street, did layer her vocal tracks in the studio.  Touring backup vocalist Johanna Cranitch also loaned her talents to complete O’Riordan’s vocals.  Her voice, though has always been rather singular, at times distinctly Irish, in that her voice accords to traditional Irish singing, and, for this reason, she is akin to Sinéad O’Connor’s early years.  And yet, for all of the Irishness, she added a whole complex layer of vulnerability and power, much like O’Connor.  And yet, the two women diverge in their delivery.  Whereas O’Connor sought to generally overpower the music, O’Riordan sought to float over the music, and to linger in between the notes.

Musically, the band is also in fine form here.  The Cranberries did not start off as a heavy band, that came later, but here the full-on guitar assault continues, with Noel Hogan’s guitars prominent, driving the rhythm, along with brother Mike’s bass.  Historically, O’Riordan played rhythm guitar in the band, but here all the guitars are Noel’s.  Drummer Lawlor has always been underrated, as it is easy to dismiss the drummers in most rock bands as being interchangeable, perhaps due to the fact that it’s not just Spinal Tap who goes through drummers like some people do socks. But Lawlor has always been a sensitive drummer, attuned to not just the music he is playing, but the mood and attitude behind the tracks.

Long and short, as sad a farewell this is, the Cranberries have sent O’Riordan off with perhaps their best album since their legendary 1994 début, Everyone Else is Doing it, Why Can’t We?.