Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review of The Cranberries' "Something Else"

I posted this review earlier this morning on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: When is a compilation album not a compilation album?

Riddle me this: When is a compilation not a compilation album? The answer is when the band actually rearranges and rerecords their own songs, and maybe throws in a few new ones as well. Blondie did it a few years ago, with their Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux album, which they sold paired up with their new (at that time) Ghosts of Download LP. Jethro Tull did it earlier this year, to tragic effect, with their money-grabbing The String Quartets album. Now the Irish '90s band The Cranberries have done it with Something Else (which if they'd been British, I suppose, would have been titled And Now for Something Completely Different). Just another cynical cash capture, right? Well, I don't know. Whatever the band's intentions, this one might actually be worth it, especially for longtime fans.

Something Else features ten classic Cranberries songs, all softened slightly and rerecorded as acoustic numbers with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, plus three new tracks. In a nod to the band's history, the album recreates the front cover from their 1994 effort No Need to Argue, with the four Cranberries sitting on their trademark sofa in similar positions to those on Argue's cover, this time with a greenish blue backdrop instead of a white one.

So what makes this better than the Blondie or Jethro Tull releases? For one thing, unlike the Tull album, this actually is The Cranberries here, not just the lead singer plus one other band member. And unlike both the Blondie and Tull albums, The Cranberries are a much younger group, and their lead singer Dolores O'Riordan is still in top form here. By the time of Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux, Deborah Harry's voice was starting to fray somewhat, and the less said about poor Ian Anderson's vocal efforts on The String Quartets, the better.

For the most part for the rerecorded tracks on Something Else, the changes aren't jarring. If you listen to them back-to-back with the originals, you'll find some slowed down a little, others speeded up, and maybe a key change or two. And of course, the new versions have the additional strings, etc., which actually blend in quite organically with this material. The one song that seems the most divergent from its precursor is "Zombie", which is considerably tempered here. In this case, the change works -- I won't say the new version is better, but it is a worthy alternative. Where the original track was harsh and angry, the strings here make the new version sound softer and more sorrowful. It's a legitimate re-imagining.

As for the new songs, they're all worth hearing. "The Glory" is a simple, pleasant song wherein O'Riordan asks an old friend to come over and give her some support through a bad time, while "Rupture" is a slow, piano-based number about lost love. The real revelation here, though, is "Why", which has been released as the album's single. This is haunting number built around a strummed acoustic guitar that seems to be a plea to a dead lover: "I will wait for you/Will you wait for me?" The song is vintage Cranberries, and it's one of my favorite songs of 2017.

I won't lie -- when I first heard that The Cranberries had an LP coming out this year year, I was a little disappointed to discover that it wasn't made up of all new material. Nevertheless, Something Else won me over. The three new songs gave me a Cranberries fix to carry me over for at least a little while, and the rest of the album reminded me why I love this group in the first place. Something Else is a worthwhile pick-up for any Cranberries fan, and a decent sampler for people who aren't familiar with the band.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars