Whereas the Cranberries' 1996 album, To the Faithful Departed,
was strident and full of political hand wringing, their new one,
Bury the Hatchet, overflows with melodic fluff and oddly violent
Dolores O'Riordan's sing-song delivery and histrionics wear thin fast;
couple those qualities with lyrics that rely on labored rhymes ("Fill
the room with empty stares/ Go to bed and say my prayers") and strictly
formulaic arrangements, and you've got a textbook recipe for the making
of a bad record. Which of course doesn't mean we won't hear these songs
played ad nauseum on the radio -- the single "Promises"
(RealAudio excerpt) is already being pushed hard on modern rock stations,
and other tracks almost certainly will follow.
The band's three year hiatus (begun with the abrupt termination of an
international tour in support of To the Faithful Departed) has
left the group with "fire in their eyes," according to a record label
honcho. Unfortunately, that fire appears also to have incinerated O'Riordan's
To be fair, Noel Hogan's jangly hook-heavy guitar work is pleasant
enough, and the rest of the band (bass player Mike Hogan and drummer
Fergal Lawler) are competent. But then O'Riordan chimes in, and the whole
thing falls as flat as a soufflé gone bad. Adequate musicianship
can't redeem songs like "Loud and Clear"
(RealAudio excerpt), which opens with a flourish only to immediately
plunge into the vocal abyss. O'Riordan sings bitter lines ("I hope that
you're sorry/ For not accepting me/ For not adoring me/ That's why I'm
not your wife") with an oddly perky delivery.
Overwrought production only makes things worse. Overdubs ensure that we
get O'Riordan harmonizing with herself all over the place. "Promises"
tries hard to let loose and get down, but there's no danger of that
actually happening. For the most part, the Cranberries seem to have
given up on any effort to rawk, relying instead on the gentle pop melodies
that made them nearly listenable in the first place. Unfortunately,
O'Riordan's keening, gasping and constant complaining gets wedged
between the band and the listener's ear.