There was a national and international outpouring of grief when lead singer of the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, died suddenly in January 2018 aged 46. The loss was felt not only in her native Limerick where the streets were full of mourners for one of Limerick’s most famous daughters but also all around the world for hits like Zombie and Linger.
More than a year since O’Riordan’s death from drowning due to alcohol intoxication, the Cranberries are releasing an album of songs O’Riordan had worked on before her sudden death. With the blessing of O’Riordan’s family, the band finished the album.
It was a help in their grief to have something to work on for her but it was also a constant reminder of the tragedy when it hit them that the singer would not be coming in to work on her parts for the recording.
“We kind of said going in, if we felt that this wasn’t going to work then we would just scrap the idea and just forget about it,” The Cranberries guitarist Noel Hogan told The Irish Echo from Ireland.
“The first couple of days, your emotions were all over the place because you were focusing on doing what you do and getting it right and at the same time there is a constant reminder that Dolores isn’t here anymore. You just have to put the head down and get on with it really and be professional, or as professional as you can be, about it.
“Then when you’re at the point that we are now, a year and a bit later you’re looking back and it’s kind of hard to imagine the grieving process without actually having done that. I definitely feel that it [the album] helped the three of us in some bizarre way to have something to focus on.”
Hogan remembers how excited O’Riordan had been about the recorded material.
“The last six months, from June to December, she and I were in constant contact. We were on opposite sides of Atlantic but she had this new burst of energy, I couldn’t give her enough music to write to.
“She wanted to work; she had a lot to say, given everything that had happened to her in the previous three years. It was trying to keep up with her, really,” Hogan said.
“She had shared that enthusiasm with her family a lot about how much she was looking forward to getting back into work, I think her family were aware of that. It was definitely something that she wanted to do and she had worked hard on these songs.
“To not finish it would do her an injustice.”
O’Riordan’s lyrics take on added poignancy on the album. Lines like ‘Ain’t it strange when everything you wanted was nothing that you wanted in the end?’ strike an emotional chord for her band mates and fans.
“Because of everything that happened, there’s almost a double meaning to them now.
“There’s a lot of discussion in this album and the topic is about things ending and coming to an end. Up until that summer, Dolores had been through a lot and it was well publicised and she was very open about it.
“She felt that she had turned a corner for better things and knew that that was behind her. The subject matter of a lot of these songs is, ‘that’s behind me now, this is the next chapter’. Then obviously what happened in January 2018 changed everything.
“When I went back to listen to them in February 2018, your mind can not help but wander off into another place and kind of realise what she’s saying here and how poignant it is now.
“This was written as another Cranberries album, that’s all it was ever meant to be in the origins of it. I know that forever more people will read more into these lyrics than she ever meant, but she would like that kind of thing anyway.”
Is this the end for the band?
“We never sat down and had a conversation about it but I think the general consensus was that we would do this album because we had started it, Dolores and I had started writing it, and it was so far into that process that it would be wrong to not finish it. We haven’t ever discussed doing any more than that.
“It’s just Dolores was such a unique voice and such a massive personality that really trying to replace her would be almost an impossible job.
“I think we would find it weird as well. It’s a double-edged thing. If we kept going, we would love to but you’re always going to be compared to this version of the Cranberries and that can have a very mixed response.
“We didn’t want to destroy the legacy at the end, do some kind of patchwork album and just try and make a few pound out of it. The agreement was that if any of us thought this is really not one of our best just to put it away on the shelf and forget about it.”
Asked for his favourite memories of the singer, Hogan goes back to the early days of the Cranberries in the 1990s.
“It’s funny because you start to remember these things after somebody passes away. You know someone is there at the end of a phone or a visit away all the time so you kind of take things for granted. I think we all do that with friends and family and suddenly someone is not there anymore and all this stuff comes flowing back to you.
“A lot of the stuff I started to remember was from the very early days … when no one knew who we were.
“We were in many ways this little gang and we were going around writing these songs and playing to two or three people at night. The thing about Dolores was she always just laughed things off, she was great for joking and messing and things like that. I guess in this business you have a public face and you have the person behind that only closer people would know.
“She hated the way that particularly in the music industry people take themselves very seriously. They come in and they’re like, ‘you gotta do this’ or ‘you gotta do that’. She just couldn’t get her head around that, she used to just laugh at that stuff and make us laugh about it as well.
“They’re nice memories … because it was that journey that we were all on at that time in particular.”