In The End
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The second formal chapter of The Cranberries’ storied tale began with the release of their sixth studio long player Roses in 2012. After a break of nearly ten years, the band that rocketed out of Limerick, Ireland and onto MTV at the outset of the 1990s were back as if no time had passed. With the warm reception that greeted Roses, The Cranberries returned to their requisite touring duties to support the album.
Later, their seventh set Something Else—an ambitious project that saw the quartet successfully re-record their own established material alongside several new sides— debuted in 2017 on the BMG label as confirmation that The Cranberries were here to stay. That same year, they also busied themselves with the construction of content for a then-gestating eighth LP. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Dolores O’Riordan would remit her final vocal demos for the record via email to her bandmates just hours before her untimely death on January 15, 2018 at the age of 46.
Grief-stricken, Fergal Lawler (drums) and brothers Mike (bass) and Noel (lead guitar) Hogan halted any and all processes on what was to become In The End. As 2018 stretched onward, the remaining members of The Cranberries came to an inexorably daunting conclusion: the album had to be finished. Encouraged by O’Riordan’s family, the Hogan brothers, Lawler and longtime producer Stephen Street began the difficult process of resuming where they’d left off to beat In The End into shape as their final curtain call.
From the beginning, the central appeal of The Cranberries derived from their ability to balance contrasting lyrical and musical extremes to create a unique vibe all their own. That quality hasn’t dissipated on In The End, in fact it comes sharply into view on the LP to prove just what it was that made them so indispensable among their decorated peers of the period.
In The End opens on the brawny “All Over Now,” a stormy rock-pop composition that wouldn’t be out of place on either No Need To Argue (1994) or Wake Up And Smell The Coffee (2001). Throughout the song cycle, The Cranberries’ guitar-pop soundscapes effortlessly pinball back and forth between the heavier sonics of “All Over Now” and other softer aesthetics with Lawler and both Hogans in impassioned form. Each bass rhythm, guitar line and drum riff are performed with the utmost care as heard on “Catch Me If You Can” and “Got It.” In less tragic circumstances, these two entries would be ideal contenders for election to single status.
Street’s production is also of merit on In The End. He expounds on the crisp instrumentation provided by the trio with ethereal strings and programming for further dimensional appeal to draw listeners into the songs versus distract from them.
But, it is O’Riordan’s haunting tones that bring everything together on In The End. Her presence enthralls on each of the record’s eleven tracks which detail the troubled and joyful intricacies of everyday life and love. One could posit that the finality of O’Riordan’s passing is what crystallizes the sensitive quality of her voice and its effective marriage to her confessional writing—it’s an approach that was unsung in the latter half of The Cranberries’ career and will be thoroughly missed now.
Two tracks showcase the potency of O’Riordan’s voice-to-lyric partnership: “Lost” and “The Pressure.” While the former is a dispirited ballad and the latter a biting, bright midtempo cut, neither song channel obstructs the conviction in O’Riordan’s writing, vocally expressed with a totality of belief that is moving.
This is particularly true of the album’s closing title piece. When O’Riordan sings, “Take my house / take my car / take the clothes / But you can’t take the spirit,” it comes out as a powerful declaration of emotional intent and authenticity further driving home that a voice of a generation has been silenced. In The End is a bittersweet coda for The Cranberries, an unexpected one that looks to what could have been and manages to turn heartbreak into a compelling and ultimately hopeful soundtrack.
Notable Tracks: "All Over Now" | “Catch Me If You Can” | "Got It" | “In The End”