Dolores O'Riordan – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Have you got a moment? That simple query lies at the heart of The Cranberries' Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, the Irish band's sublime MCA Records debut and first new album in two years. Over the past decade, the Cranberries have sold millions of records and won fans around the world thanks to their tight arrangements, inerrant melodic instincts, probing songs and, especially, the crystalline vocals of Dolores O'Riordan. Now celebrating their 10th anniversary, the Cranberries have got it down, and with their new album they make an earnest, tuneful plea to seize the day while cherishing every moment of life.
In some ways, Wake Up And Smell The Coffee is a homecoming. The album was produced in Dublin by Stephen Street (The Smiths, Morrissey, Blur), producer of the band's first two albums. Says Dolores, "There's a sense of stability Stephen brings to this band. He used to be so paternal when he first worked with us, and he'd talk to me like I was one of his kids. This time, our relationship is more mutual." Adds drummer Fergal Lawler, "It was great to be with him again. Stephen really understands us and gets the best from every one of us." Indeed, the new album radiates a deep contentment the band members feel in their lives today, both personally and professionally. "This is the calmest we've ever been," says Dolores. "We've proven ourselves by now, so we're really relaxed and really enjoyed ourselves in the studio, totally going with the flow."
Songs like the muted "Never Grow Old" and the premiere single "Analyse" capture the struggle between head and heart, while appreciating life's simpler joys. "There was a point in the last year or so when I finally saw the beauty I had been blind to for so long," notes Dolores. "These songs say ‘don't stress worrying about tomorrow, next week, next year, when there's so much beauty around.'" The haiku-like "Pretty Eyes" has a winsome 60's feel, while "Time is Ticking Out" shows that The Cranberries still retain all the turbulent political fury of albums past. The languid "Dying Inside," which describes the steady corruption of a soul, contrasts sharply with unabashed love songs like "The Concept" and "I Really Hope." The slow waltz "Carry On" and "Do You Know" both celebrate the life-force, while the harder-rocking title track throws new light on an old saying. The album closes with the hauntingly personal "Chocolate Brown” cut live with one microphone. "A few songs on the album have different vibes from anything we've done before," notes Mike. "It's nice to do different things, though it's not something we plan. It just happens naturally."
Taking that organic approach has been a hallmark of The Cranberries since first forming in their hometown of Limerick, Ireland. The 80's had produced a bumper crop of Irish stars, including U2, Clannad, Enya, Hot House Flowers, and Sinead O'Connor. In 1989, the Hogan brothers, along with friends Fergal Lawler and singer Niall Quinn, sought to emulate their countrymen/heroes. Initially calling themselves The Cranberry Saw Us, the rowdy band ultimately coalesced when Dolores replaced Quinn sometime after the band had played a few gigs. Early demos drew the attention of Island Records' Chris Blackwell and top producer Denny Cordell (Leon Russell, Tom Petty), which led to their first major record deal.
In 1992, The Cranberries released their multi-platinum debut Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? The 1993 single "Linger" reached the American Top 10, with the album selling over a million copies in North America and, following a re-release, debuting at #1 on the U.K. charts (after failing to climb above #75 initially). Their second album No Need To Argue (1994) sold 12 million copies in its first year of release, propelled by the hit single "Zombie," while their 1996 third album To The Faithful Departed, produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, AC/DC) reaped additional gold and platinum for the band. More than anything, fans and critics were charmed by The Cranberries' no-frills style. "We learned early on that less is more," says Noel. "If you fill up all the empty space, then there's no room for the music to breathe, especially given the kind of singer Dolores is."
The Cranberries' self-produced 1999 fourth album Bury The Hatchet topped the charts in 17 countries and set the stage for their biggest tour ever (6 continents, 110 concerts, over a million fans). After that, they took a well-deserved break, reconvening to write and record the new album. The first sessions for Wake Up And Smell The Coffee took place in summer 2000 at Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios, prior to the birth of Dolores' second child. Dolores and Noel each became parents for the second time with the birth of Molly and Sophie, respectively, in January and March 2001. "Having children helps you stop worrying about stupid things," Fergal notes. "And they brought us closer as a band too. We're always asking things like, ‘How's the teething coming along?'"
Soon, they'll be packing up the teething rings for an extensive world tour. The Cranberries have always been one of the hardest working, hardest touring bands, and family obligations notwithstanding, they're anxious to get back on the road. "We really enjoyed the last tour," says Mike. "To go out and enjoy each night the way we'd always dreamed about was fantastic. Fans anywhere can feel our vibe even if they don't understand the lyrics."
Globetrotters they may be, but for all four, there's still no place like home. Says Fergal, "A lot of people told us we should move to Dublin or London. But we never saw the point. Limerick is where we live, where our families and friends are. Besides, if you're away from Ireland too long, your heart grows heavy. You've gotta get back and get your fix, even if it's just for a week or two. It's a magical place."
There are those that might say The Cranberries themselves have been responsible for some of that magic. Today, after ten years and 33 million albums sold, the band is in their best condition ever, both musically and personally. "We're really happy as a band and as individuals," notes Fergal, "and we think this album captured that." With Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, The Cranberries have attained a new artistic benchmark. Drink up.