It’s always tough saying goodbye to the musicians who’ve bridged the gap between different generations. Cranberries’ front woman Dolores O’Riordan was one of those people who accomplished that feat. Her unique voice, and dynamic songwriting was at its apex in the 1990s. The Irish band created hits to stand the test of the time (“Linger” and “Zombie” especially), and have found a loyal fanbase to go along with them.
Their final studio album, In the End, eerily aligns with the death of O’Riordan-making it one of their most unintentionally somber records to date. The singer’s vocals were originally recorded as a demo prior to her passing; until the band decided to mix and master them to sound more studio-like.
O’Riordan tangles inner turmoil with societal turbulence, kicking In the End off with a Coldplay-inspired guitar riff (early Coldplay of course) on the breezy rock ballad, “All Over Now.” The track acts as a direct ode for O’Riordan’s innate attention to detail, specifically in her powerful lyrics (“Do you remember, remember the night?/At a hotel in London they started to fight/She told her man that she fell to the ground/She was afraid that the truth would be found”). Her rare ability to be straightforward and memorable will surely be missed.
On “Lost,” O’Riordan is provided a platform where her voice shines even more. The haunting acoustic, and verses about losing focus on the future exudes an intimate feeling not shown too often in modern-day pop rock. It’s almost as if O’Riordan is speaking to us personally-telling everyone that things can turn out okay if we try hard enough.
For the most part, O’Riordan and company are realists, never feeling the need to sugarcoat certain aspects of culture. Which is why it’s refreshing when they take a break from all of the darkness on “Summer Song;” a track that oozes optimism (“Rolling on the grass/Some things never last/Just stay for awhile/We could have a blast”). At the same time, it’s even more heartbreaking considering what could have been (possibly a bright future following this release).
O’Riordan also explores the juxtaposition of love and heartbreak on songs like “Illusion” and “Got It,” with the former giving listeners a path to unrequited love. Even on “Lost,” an idea like this is brushed over briefly. O’Riordan takes credit and blame for many relationships she’s been a part of over the years on “A Place I Know”-adding a touch of humanity in the process.
The production, while insipid at times, does add a colorful setting for O’Riordan to work her magic. The rest of the band aptly ends the record off with the title track; a reminder that The Cranberries’ impressive musical run will never be forgotten. Quality was never sacrificed, even if those few pessimists may think it was. O’Riordan finishes off her illustrious career with wonderment-asking the world if anything in life is ever worth it. We may care for people, places, and things, but the thought of not taking any of it with you when you die has surely crossed her mind.
In the End will undoubtedly fly under people’ radars, especially in an age where listeners love to forget about the past. But this is the present, and what Dolores O’Riordan is saying definitely matters. She may not physically be with us anymore, but her voice will always have an impact on the music industry, especially to those young women who are finding their voice in this corrupt world we live in. If this is truly The Cranberries’ finally record, then it’s one for the ages.