In January last year, Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, was found dead in her hotel. As a tribute to O’Riordan, her bandmates pieced together demos of her vocals that she had prepared for the album, with in-studio recordings to create In The End. Many of the lyrics come with an unintentional irony in the context of her demise, particularly in ‘Catch Me If you Can’, where piano and violins accompany O’Riordan’s distinctively eerie voice as she sings about ‘loosening the mortal chain’.
As well as dealing with the idea of ‘The End’, many of the songs also look at the band’s beginnings: ‘Wake me When It’s Over’, in particular, has a similar feel to their classic ‘Zombie’ as it similarly underlines the painful futility of violence with the raw energy of O’Riordan’s vocals. In the album’s last song, O’Riordan sings: ‘Ain’t it strange/When everything you wanted was nothing that you wanted/In the End’ – a confession made all the more chilling when we consider that, like the song, their long and turbulent journey came to an abrupt conclusion.
While dark themes dominate the album – the opening song ‘All Over Now’ details an incident of domestic abuse at a London Hotel – the second-last track, ‘Summer Song’, provides a relief with an upbeat and ethereal love song, before catching us off-guard with the lyric: ‘Maybe we’ll have an accident’. This unexpected disruption to the song’s idyllic atmosphere suggests that not everything is as it seems, and adds another reminder of the sudden impact of O’Riordan’s death.
Overall, the album represents a bittersweet farewell from a band to a singer whose incredible voice could turn from embittered to dreamlike in an instant. While it is sad to think The Cranberries will never release another song, their final album is one you cannot listen to just once.
[Liam Caldwell – he/him – @paddingtonsda]