The Cranberries

To the Faithful Departed

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To the Faithful Departed turned out to be where the Cranberries' best intentions finally and thoroughly tripped them up. Switching producers to Bruce Fairbairn was a troubling enough move to begin with; Stephen Street's ear for the band's dynamics was note-perfect, but Fairbairn's work with arena-rock monsters like Aerosmith meant that on Departed everything was scaled up accordingly. The results may have been more commercial, but they took the identity of the band with it -- the opening song "Hollywood" was a sludgefest that, ironically, didn't give the band the muscular kick that propelled songs like "Zombie." O'Riordan, meanwhile, decided she was a generation's spokesperson, fully taking over the songwriting, except on a couple of cuts with Noel Hogan, penning some appropriate liner notes, and running with it. Songtitles say it all -- "War Child," "I Just Shot John Lennon," complete with cheesy gun shots, and perhaps most painfully obvious at the end, "Bosnia." Then there's lead single "Salvation," which preaches against heroin addiction in a manner worthy of afterschool specials and with about as much depth. Not that good songs can't and haven't been written on these subjects, of course, but O'Riordan, lacking a truly individual or unique take on them, is not the person to be writing them. Or singing them -- her wails and yelps now run rampant, being less voice-as-instrument as it is signature calling card to be employed throughout. There are bright points -- every so often Hogan's guitar comes through at its best, and there's the retro-'50s finger-snapping "When You're Gone" and the nicely arranged "Electric Blue." Still, when compared to No Need and especially Everybody, Departed completely suffers in comparison.

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