This starts with a death, as it often does. It takes losing something, or someone, to make you realise it was important. It turns out that I fucking love The Cranberries and I hadn’t known. Of course I had known, it just didn’t really register as important, they’ve been a background to my life since I can remember. My parents, my mum especially, loved them. They were part of my music upbringing and their influence on me is reflected in my music taste. Their sound was nuanced. It taught me that music can evolve and change, song by song and even within a song. Genre wasn’t a rule but an option. Above all, they were just really good. The orchestral, melodic swell of Linger and the harsh, emotional howl of Zombie are two of my favourite song and yet they are entirely different. The Cranberries were a band so intrinsic to me that I didn’t appreciate them. The reason I bring this up is that today Dolores O’Riordan, leader and embodiment of The Cranberries, and vocalist in D.A.R.K, passed away and music lost a truly unique voice. This is my tribute to a woman who didn’t know how much she influenced me and didn’t need to. The music she helped to create is her legacy and one that will not be forgotten.
O’Riordan – and The Cranberries in general – were… incredible. Their music is inseparable from the sound of the 90. Their incredible success is reflected in the immediate recognisability of Dreams, Zombie and Linger. This is in no small part due to O’Riordan’s distinctive, unbelievably pure voice
O’Riordan’s voice was primal. She pours emotion, grit, defiance and tenderness into every octave. On my favourite song of theirs, Zombie, it can go from harsh and challenging to sorrowful and questioning in an instant. Each lyric is doused in desolate incredulity. As the sound wells so too does the passionate defiance. Zombie is pure rock. O’Riordan surrenders herself to the cause imbuing each line with a visceral snarl, the song dancing on the edge of lunacy as the music becomes almost unstoppable. And yet they hold it there, never quite spilling over to pure insanity, the lightness of O’Riordan’s voice a bastion of hope against the heavy bassline, the thrashing drums and the distorted, overwhelming guitar. The magnitude of the song is cut through by a pure note, her voice stands amid the carnage. The song is brilliantly emotive, it is unsettling, mournful, pleading and, above all human. Given its inspiration – a bomb that killed two children during The Troubles – it resonates with palpable human grief but doesn’t wallow in it. It is a rallying cry for peace, stalwart against senseless violence. It’s a masterpiece, no other word for it.
In case you can’t tell, I fucking love The Cranberries.
Gut-churning, fist clenching anthemic belters weren’t their only gift though. On the equally as brilliant Linger O’Riordan flawlessly captures the forlorn love of a doomed relationship. The light, alt-rock infused indie sound belies the caustic love of O’Riordan’s lyrics. It feels as if we’re being let into her innermost confidence, she is vulnerable, truthful and trusting. This makes the sting all the more real given the subject matter. You can almost picture her sitting by the window aimlessly running her finger along the pane waiting for the phone to ring. It’s an intrinsically relatable love, and all the more painful because of it. The song perfectly encapsulates unrequited longing and the fiction of a one-sided relationship. O’Riordan bears her soul and makes us realise just how much we surrender ourselves when we love another. The song is as heart-breaking as it is uplifting. It’s an almost unattainable, indescribably love. So much of what she wants to say is unsaid. It lingers in the air between the lyrics and the music as unknowable as love itself. The song makes you believe in love unquestioningly but it also makes you wary of it. O’Riordan perfectly sums up unrequited love, and you can tell she’s almost at her wits end. The defiance tinges every note. It’s brilliant.
The Cranberries aren’t my favourite band, nor are they uber-prominent on my current go-to playlist –‘Give these a go you might like them’– but they were an instrumental in shaping my opinions on music. By listening to The Cranberries I learnt that a song could carry raw emotional heft. O’Riordan’s otherworldly voice penetrated deep within my soul embodying entirely relatable yet unobtainable emotion. They are a band that will always be in my mind, even if I don’t realise it. You could say that they linger there. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
I’ve not mentioned it here but Ode to my Family is my favourite Cranberries song. It is one of the few songs that can make me cry.
Thank you and rest in peace.
Oh and also Curvy by D.A.R.K is a fucking tune.