The second half of the '90s was difficult for the Cranberries, not just because of changing fashions, but because the group embraced both a social consciousness and a prog rock infatuation, crystallized by the Storm Thorgerson cover of Bury the Hatchet. Thorgerson has been retained for their fifth effort, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, but the group has hardly pursued the indulgent tendencies of their previous collaboration with him -- instead, they've re-teamed with producer Stephen Street and come up with an album that's as reminiscent of their debut as anything they've done since. So, 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 -- perhaps not with the post-Sundays grace of "Linger," but with a dogged sense of decorum that keeps not just the group's musical excesses in check, but also O'Riordan's political polemics (although she still sneaks in cringe-inducing lines like "Looks like we've screwed up the ozone layer/I wonder if the politicians care"). This doesn't really result in a record that will restore the Cranberries to the status they enjoyed in the early '90s -- after all, there's nothing as undeniable as "Linger," "Dreams," or even "Zombie" -- but it's a solid effort that feels like the true follow-up to To the Faithful Departed, which is notable in its own way.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Dolores O'Riordan