Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stuck In The Bog: Why Irish Pop-Rock Has Not Taken Over The World

The Good: Some decent lyrics, Moments of good sound
The Bad: Fairly standard overall album, Moments of similar sound, Wailing
The Basics: When it's not busy being wailing and Irish/Celtic sounding, this album is simply blazee pop-rock that is not worth the listener's time.

I recall in high school a Rolling Stone cover featuring the lead singer of The Cranberries entitled "The Improbable Rise of Dolores O'Riordan." It was a nice picture, the lead singer in a miniskirt looking like a marketable pop-rock star. Having finally listened to The Cranberries's Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? I am somewhat surprised there was never a footnote or bookend coverstory "The Predictable Descent of The Cranberries." I would bet there are few casual listeners to The Cranberries that have held onto or cherished this album after the hype has died down. In short, I expect there is a loyal fanbase who will argue to the death that this is one of the greatest albums of all time, but I would bet reasonably that those who bought this c.d. back in '93 on the strength of the singles "Dreams" and/or "Linger" find they almost never play it. Or they sold it back to buy newer c.d.s years ago.

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? is a collection of 12 tracks that exhibit the vocal and lyrical talents of an Irish quartet called The Cranberries. The Cranberries is fronted by lead singer Dolores O'Riordan and all of the songs are written or co-written by her. I suppose it is natural to listen to any Irish singer and look for a Celtic influence, whatwith that whole area of the UK being somewhat murky to U.S. audiences. In the case of The Cranberries, it's not much of a leap or stereotype; The Cranberries incorporate a Celtic sound into their brand of rock and roll. Songs like "Waltzing Back" and "Dreams" are backed by sounds and vocals that have Celtic influence. O'Riordan's wailings at the end of "Dreams" is possibly the most mainstream Celtic-Irish sound ever heard on American radios.

This is, however, not U2. Whatever allows Bono and U2 to make Irish rock and roll a worldwide phenomenon, The Cranberries don't have it. U2 tends to work within the rules, not accenting their Irish sound, playing rock and roll and redefining it. The Cranberries seem determined to make Irish Rock and Roll.

Nowhere is this more clear in the lilting vocals of Dolores O'Riordan. Unlike such straight-out rock and roll songs like "Not Sorry," Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? contains songs that focus on the forceful voice one might expect from "Linger." Equally problematic is that some of the tracks sound almost identical. For example, track 3 "Sunday" sounds almost exactly like "Linger" at the beginning, up to and including punching out almost one of the same lines with the same melody ("Do you have to . . ."). "Sunday," moreover has terrible rhymes (ground/round leapt right out at me).

So here, I shall respond to the title of the album directly: they have something to say. And yes, I will go so far as to suggest that The Cranberries do not. Of the "everybody" who was singing and putting out albums, one hopes they have something to say. Why shouldn't The Cranberries? Because they don't appear to have anything new or different or compelling to say. Dolores O'Riordan is no Sinnead O'Connor. This album is plagued by repetitious lyrics (listen to "Linger" three times in a row and you'll have a headache!) and a sound that wears thin rather quickly.

Is it all bad? No. "Dreams" is an awesome song. It's packed with imagery and longing and it sounds good over and over, even years later. But it's the anomaly on an otherwise weak album. If an artist I respect does a decent cover of "Dreams," I could think of no reason to ever listen to the Cranberries's version again.

When the vocals aren't wailing, the album is fairly standard pop-rock and it could be anyone. There is nothing terribly impressive or skillful in the drums, guitars or bass that back up O'Riordan.

I know people prefer longer reviews, but the truth is, all of the salient points have been made by this point. Could I embellish more? Possibly. Instead, I'd rather devote time to reviewing something more worthwhile. You deserve to read about something better than Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? To say more would simply be to repeat myself and as I listen to the terrible "Still Can't . . ." repeat "wanted it all" over and over again, I'd rather not make the same mistake as The Cranberries.

The best track is "Dreams," the worst is "How."


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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