The Cranberries

Bury the Hatchet

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The Cranberries stumbled with their move toward heavier, politically fueled modern rock on To the Faithful Departed, losing fans enamored with their earlier sound. Like many groups that see their stardom fading, the band decided to return after a short hiatus with a mildly updated, immaculately constructed distillation of everything that earned them an audience in the first place. It's immediately apparent that Bury the Hatchet has retreated from the ludicrous posturing that marred To the Faithful. There are no blasts of distorted guitar -- as a matter of fact, there are no songs that even qualify as "rockers" -- and there is little preaching, even on Dolores O'Riordan's most earnest songs. Every note and gesture is pitched at the adult alternative mainstream, which is a good thing. Though they ran away from the dreamy jangle of their first hits, the Cranberries never sounded more convincing than on mid-tempo, folky pop tunes with polished productions. Sonically, that's precisely what Bury the Hatchet delivers, complete with little flourishes -- a Bacharachian horn chart there, cinematic strings there -- to illustrate that the band did indeed know what was hip in the late '90s. All this planning -- some might call it calculation -- shouldn't come as a surprise, since Bury the Hatchet is essentially a make-or-break album, but what is a surprise is that the end result is the most consistent record of their career. It's not necessarily their best -- it lacks the immediate singles of their first two records -- but all the songs work together to form a whole; not even embarrassments like the skittering "Copycat" interrupt the flow of the record. True, the album never challenges listeners, but it delivers on their expectations -- and after To the Faithful Departed, that comes as a relief.

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