"To the Faithful Departed"
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The third album from Ireland's other politically informed band does not begin promisingly. The first you hear from Dolores O'Riordan, she's ululating like one of the grieving sheep in "Babe," half gasping, half wailing in that sort of hiccupy way she has. Even those who didn't mind the affectation on "Zombie" and a half-dozen other Cranberries tracks must be tired of it by now.
But things quickly improve. Once O'Riordan actually starts singing, the album's first song, "Hollywood," turns gripping. It's followed by an eclectic selection of material demonstrating the group's ability to test new waters without drowning.
The anti-drug "Salvation"--with the decidedly unhip exhortation to parents to "tie your kids to their beds, clean their heads!"--and the angry "I Just Shot John Lennon" exude the sort of ringing energy that fueled the new wave that was popular at the time of Lennon's death.
Almost everything O'Riordan puts her big voice to draws power from her conviction, even the slower numbers. Whether she's bemoaning Bosnia or bad love affairs, she assails her subject with vigor, and the band keeps up in kind. With a bit more successful branching out by the Cranberries, that other Irish political band might someday itself become the other Irish political band.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).