There’s a definite sense of ending to The Cranberries latest and final album. As foreshadowed by its title, 'In The End' has strong themes of loss, finality, closure, and retrospect. It is at times, a challenging listen - after all, The Cranberries always take you on a bittersweet journey. Like pouring salt in a wound, they somehow manage to tear open scars that you thought were closed and expose you to your vulnerabilities, time and time again.
The opening track 'It’s All Over Now' is gorgeously layered with jangly-pop guitar riffs - within the first seconds alone the listener is firmly back in The Cranberries´ familiar territory. It's as if nothing has changed, as though nothing had happened. It seems wistfully nostalgic, even if it’s about the end of an abusive relationship: “Do you remember it all? I remember it all. It’s all over now.” If you’re still hurting from O'Riordan’s loss, it’s tempting to not isolate such lyrics and apply it to her passing, recollecting the times her words soundtracked moments in your life, remembering it all, as something definite, done, and unjust.
But, this is no 'Blackstar'. There aren’t any clues or foreshadowing to look into. O'Riordan was on a creative roll. Her death was tragically accidental - she was excited about the new material and motivated with her writing. Recognicing this creative drive in the quality of her unfinished vocal recordings, the band released the album with the sole intention to honour her.
“We knew this had to be one of the, if not the, best Cranberries album that we could possibly do,” said guitarist and co-songwriter Noel Hogan in a statement. “The worry was that we would destroy the legacy of the band by making an album that wasn’t up to standard.”
It can't have been an easy decision, but it was the right one. The release of this album is important - surely to the band, and most definitely for the fans. 'In The End' closes the circle, and takes us back to the beginning. Enlisting longtime producer Stephen Street, who has worked on albums throughout their career, including their iconic 1993 debut 'Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?', adds to the parallels with their famed early releases. The record is classic Cranberries, a band who achieved a sound that has always been difficult to place - at times blissful melodic pop, and others enraged grunge angst.
On this album, they don’t abandon this versatility. 'Wake Me When It’s Over' couples quiet, pensive verses with a charged explosive chorus. Alternatively, tracks such as 'A Place I Know' is a soft, and poignant love song, the simplicity and starkness of O'Riordan’s lyrics are made complex through their evasiveness into your own sentiments - memorable, repeated rhymes that stand out as you listen, echoing inside the mind, forcing contemplation.
No track has this effect more than the final one, 'In The End', the namesake of the album. “They can never take your spirit,” O'Riordan sings on the chorus, reminding us that even if the journey is over, there will always be a way to live on. Which is exactly how she will be remembered. After all, there is no end to a timeless legacy.
An album pieced together by a band in mourning, with the sweet sadness of O'Riordan‘s voice layered over, makes it cruder, rawer yet ultimately more truthful and hard-hitting, evoking the charged vulnerability of their very first releases. 'In The End' shows us, that ultimately, O'Riordan and her band will stay everlasting. Don’t look for clues or read any signs beyond what this album is, but take it for what O'Riordan always offered us - songs written from her own heart to pierce your own.
Words: Charis McGowan
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