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Members include Mike Hogan (born on April 29, 1973, in Limerick, Ireland; married Siobhan, 1998), bass; Noel Hogan (born on December 25, 1971, in Limerick, Ireland; married Kathryn Nash, 1996), guitar; Feargal Lawler (born on March 4, 1971, in Limerick, Ireland; married Laurie Guerin, 1997; one child), drums; Dolores O'Riordan (born on September 6, 1971, in Limerick, Ireland; married Don Burton, 1994; two children), vocals, guitar, keyboards. Addresses: Record company--Island Records, 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019. Website--The Cranberries Official Website: http://www.cranberries.com.
Irish quartet the Cranberries burst onto the scene in 1992 with their ethereal hit "Dreams," the first single from a debut album that eventually went multiplatinum. "What sets it apart--other, that is, from that continually astonishing voice and the effortlessly graceful arrangements--is a faintly tangible sense of ruptured innocence, of shattered hope," mused Melody Maker writer Andrew Mueller about the group's distinctive sound. Indeed, the youthful band survived a series of problematic encounters with bad management and a capricious press that nearly disbanded them; their astounding success in the United States was relatively unexpected but a welcome vote of confidence in their cohesive musicianship.
Fronted by lead singer Dolores O'Riordan, lead and bass guitars are the respective domains of brothers Noel and Mike Hogan; Feargal Lawler sits behind the drums. O'Riordan and Noel Hogan write most of the band's material. O'Riordan, the Hogans, and Lawler all came into the world at Limerick's Maternity Hospital in the early 1970s. Like others in Ireland, the bandmates grew up in relatively reduced circumstances--O'Riordan was the youngest of seven children in a household supported by her mother; Noel Hogan collected unemployment for a time. The Hogans and Lawler were originally part of an ensemble called the Cranberry Saw Us, whose fourth member, another Limerick fellow, wrote all their material in addition to his singing duties. When the band's writer left the band in mid-1990, they began looking around for a new vocalist.
Entranced by a Country Girl's Voice
O'Riordan, then living just outside Limerick, heard about the band from a school friend and showed up at an audition. "They were all laughing at me and I was really embarrassed, [because] there was about nine fellas in the room and I was the girl from the country," the singer told Everett True in Melody Maker. "They thought I was a scream." The three young men, however, apparently liked the sound of O'Riordan's voice, with which she had been attracting attention since her preschool years; as a teenager she had won competitions for her solos with her church and school choirs.
Entranced, the Cranberry Saw Us members invited O'Riordan to join. After practicing and shortening the band's name to the Cranberries, they cut a three-song cassette titled Nothing Left at All. A second five-track release was sent out on a lark to a few record companies and to the band's surprise, Rough Trade Records--the former home of their idols, the Smiths--expressed interest. A bidding war ensued, and the Cranberries were signed to Island Records before a mention of their name had even appeared in the music press.
The band's obscurity was short-lived, however, as the energetic but snarky British music press instantly touted the Cranberries as the next big thing. "Wince-inducing interview after cringeworthy feature painted a picture of a band of four pristine, untainted, awestruck country souls, standing welly-deep in peat and creating the music of the Gods in between saying their rosaries and worrying the local sheep," wrote Mueller in Melody Maker of the articles that appeared in both his paper and the New Musical Express in 1991. In October of that year, after they had relocated to London, the band released their first single, "Uncertain." Melody Maker' s True termed it "as fresh and stimulating as a breeze blowing in from the North Sea."
Debut Release Delayed
The Cranberries began playing various spots around Britain and wrote songs for a full-length album. In the studio, they teamed up with Stephen Street, who had produced a number of records for the Smiths and the Psychedelic Furs. Problems with management, however, proved worrisome. They had recorded their demos and "Uncertain" with a Limerick producer and studio owner, Pearse Gilmore, who was also their manager. Yet they eventually discovered that he had been lying to each of them to varying degrees. Contemplating a breakup, they sat down on a street corner and instead opted to fire Gilmore. "We used to trust everybody," Noel Hogan told Melody Maker's Mueller. "We used to think everyone was here to help us. Then we realized that they were here to help themselves."
The resulting contractual delays and legal problems pushed back the release of the Cranberries' first full-length album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, until March of 1993. Melody Maker was quick to call the LP "a superb coincidence of riches: six dozen immaculately-conceived melodies compressed into a mere 12 songs, and a voice that ravages your mood," according to critic Peter Paphides. Kara Manning of Rolling Stone described the album as "sublimely understated yet seductively, chillingly alive." Melody Maker reviewer Jennifer Nine noted, "Like many small things, Dolores' voice is neither as simple nor as frail as it seems, and there's a world of headstrong energy inside it."
Unexpected Success Abroad
O'Riordan's vocal style, in fact, has often been cited as the group's most undeniable hook and even sent Mueller into a reverie in his Melody Maker piece: "It comes down to the voice, doesn't it always? The Voice: A gentle, pure Irish whisper with a tinge of huskiness which sends melancholy-splattered shards of pain and hope and love straight to your heart. The Voice: a melodic mini-scream which oscillates and reverberates out into the darkening, overcast sky.... It can sound both young and ancient simultaneously. It can span the ages. It's so filled with emotion, it will break your heart with the merest slipped quaver."
The Cranberries' melodies, combined with O'Riordan's voice, struck a chord with the listening public, and by mid-1994 Everybody's Doing It had sold 2.8 million copies. Oddly, success in the United States from airplay on alternative and top 40 radio helped spur sales in Britain. "I think the more the press stays away from us, the better we are," O'Riordan told Rolling Stone's Manning in mid-1993. "The American press is slightly more mature, but the British press is a very small group of people and they all jump on the same band at once, and they jump off the same band at once."
The Cranberries traveled to the United States to capitalize on the success of their debut album, doing a number of opening dates for rock band The The as well as headlining appearances on their own. They also used the between-gig time to write songs for a second album and headed back into the studio in the spring of 1994 with Stephen Street. The result was No Need to Argue, released in the fall of that year. Its first single, "Zombie," was a far cry from the band's other hits, featuring a hard-edged guitar sound and a more strident vocal style from O'Riordan that called to mind fellow Irish singer Sinead O'Connor. Additionally, the song's theme--a tirade against the sectarian violence that has rocked Northern Ireland, especially since 1968, was another step away from the dreamy love-struck songs of their first release.
People's Michael Small praised both No Need to Argue and "Zombie," noting that "O'Riordan's intense delivery brings out a slight tartness--which, of course, is the mark of a truly good cranberry." Spin reviewer Jonathan Bernstein termed "Zombie" the album's best song, "[lurching] between grindcore and whimsy, with O'Riordan mood-swinging from her normal soothing allure into growling and barnyard impersonations." Yet Bernstein conjectured that while the Cranberries offer more than the average dream-pop band, No Need to Argue's strong points might not be sufficient enough to sustain the group's lasting success.
The Cranberries, their legions of fans, and their label seemed to feel differently, however, and major concert tours--including ones in Asia and Australia--were set to coincide with the success of No Need to Argue."By the time we came to do this album, we knew what we were capable of," Noel Hogan told Billboard writer Thom Duffy. "We're really happy with it. We did it the way we wanted to do it. It is what it's meant to be."
Took New Musical Direction
With producer Bruce Fairbairn (of Aerosmith and AC/DC fame) at the helm, the group released their third studio album, To the Faithful Departed, in 1996. With the postpunk lead single "Salvation," the album marked a change from "the personal to the political," according to Christopher John Farley in Time, and a more aggressive sound. "If the Cranberries once sounded as if they were sleepwalkers in a world gone weird, To the Faithfully Departed sounds as if they've finally awakened," David Browne of Entertainment Weekly commented. The album achieved double-platinum sales in January of 1997.
The group released Bury the Hatchet in 1999 and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee in 2002, both of which took a step back from the edginess of To the Faithful Departed and offered a retooled version of the formula that created the group's success during the early 1990s. Of Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide commented, "even if it's wrapped in new clothing, this is essentially a return to basics, and it's a welcome one, since it's melodic, stately, and somber...." The group released the greatest hits collection Stars: The Best of 1992-2002 in 2002.
by Carol Brennan
The Cranberries's Career
Group formed in Limerick, Ireland, 1990; signed with Island Records, 1991; released debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?,1993; released No Need to Argue, 1994; To the Faithful Departed,1996; following a hiatus, released Bury the Hatchet,1999; released Wake Up and Smell the Coffee and greatest hits compilation Stars: The Best of 1992-2002, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? Island, 1993.
- No Need to Argue Island, 1994.
- To the Faithful Departed Island, 1996.
- Bury the Hatchet Island, 1999.
- Wake Up and Smell the Coffee MCA, 2002.
- Stars: The Best of 1992-2002 (compilation), Island, 2002.
- Billboard, August 14, 1993; August 20, 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly, October 7, 1994; October 28, 1994; May 10, 1996.
- Melody Maker, October 26, 1991; October 3, 1992; January 30, 1993; March 6, 1993; March 13, 1993; November 6, 1993.
- Musician, November 1994.
- People, October 17, 1994; May 13, 1996.
- Pulse!, June 1994.
- Rolling Stone, September 2, 1993; December 23, 1993; April 21, 1994; December 1, 1994; March 23, 1995.
- Spin, November 1994.
- Time, November 7, 1994; May 13, 1996.
- "The Cranberries," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 15, 2003).
- The Cranberries Official Website, http://www.thecranberries.com (April 15, 2003).
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