Cool comebacks

The new album of the Irish quartet of Dolores O’Riordan, Fergal Lawler, Noel and Mike Hogan is produced by the band’s old friend and collaborator Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur, and Kaiser Chiefs). The songs on the new album hark back to the freshness and acoustic originality of the band’s first two albums, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? and No Need To Argue. I popped the CD in the car on a drive to Tagaytay over the weekend and, instantly, from the moment the first song “Conduct” came on, it was like listening to an old friend telling me stories from a shared past. 

It is O’Riordan’s one-of-a-kind vocal style—part classical, part yodel, all powerful—that is the trademark of The Cranberries. When her voice comes on, there’s no mistaking who you’re listening to. Not a lot of active singers can claim that distinction. 

In a way, it’s easy to dismiss their creativity because of this musical trademark. They’re pretty much doing the same thing. Yes, the band does not stray too far away from the pop-rock leanings that made them so popular in the first place. It doesn’t even feel like it’s been 10 years since their last album. That’s how seamless the transition is. 

However, a deeper look at the lyrics will reveal a quiet maturity in the band. When she used to sing about “Linger”-ing feelings and “Dreams” changing every possible way, now O’Riordan examines the downfall of a relationship in songs like “Fire & Soul” (“How to be unfaithful/ how to be disgraceful/ to lose yourself/ to lose control”) and “Raining In My Heart” (“I cried a tear/ I tried to turn away/ but it’s raining in my heart/ every time we are apart”). A standout track besides “Conduct” is “Schizophrenic Playboys,” with a lovely hook that’s sure to get people singing along when they perform here in Manila next week.

Many fans can sometimes feel alienated and lost when their favorite artist or band---in their quest for “growth” and desire for “something new”---switches musical gears so drastically that they’re left with hardly anything that sounds familiar. In the case of The Cranberries, fans needn’t worry. Growth is achieved, but not at the expense of the sound that they’re known for. It’s definitely something new, but there’s enough of the original that will satisfy those who’ve followed the evolution of the band since the beginning. 


HANSON: Shout It Out

Brothers Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson are, of course, best known for their ubiquitous 1997 hit “Mmmbop,” which earned them Grammy nominations for “Record of the Year,” “Best New Artist,” and "Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.” It’s difficult for some people to get past the idea of the band outside of their biggest hit, but—as the band remarked during their Manila show last week—they’ve been around for 20 years, constantly making music and touring the U.S. and the world.

In terms of evolving, Hanson aren’t that much different from The Cranberries. Their latest album, “Shout It Out,” is their sixth major studio album. There’s no way for the band but progress from being prepubescent teens into young adults, and, for those who have not heard anything about them since “Mmmbop,” it’s good to know  that their music has grown up with them, too. 

“This grouping of songs reflects a moment in time for this band, a set of songs crafted on the road in between the madness of our lives” says the write-up in the CD inlay. “It is music that remembers its roots, and picks up a fresh batch of color for the next pages.” I’m not sure what kind of childhood the boys have had, but I imagine it was surrounded by music---lots of it. There’s lots of hand-clapping, over-the-top instrumentation, and an overall fun atmosphere in the record. It’s a sunnier, pop-ier gospel choir, with secular lyrics that speak of innocence and young love. “These Walls” might speak of tough challenges imagined or real, but a light beat sugarcoated in the boys’ throaty singing make it an easy favorite, as is “Thinking ‘Bout Something” and “Musical Ride.”


Bring both CDs (or download both on your iPod) and try playing them on a long car trip. For people like me, it’s good music for the road ahead from artists from our past. -


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