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In Brief

** THE CRANBERRIES, "Bury the Hatchet", Island

April 25, 1999|ELYSA GARDNER

With 1994's "No Need to Argue" and 1996's "To the Faithful Departed," the Cranberries tried to combine edgier rock textures and social commentary--a noble goal that had lackluster results. On its fourth album (in stores Tuesday), the Irish band focuses more on doing what it does best--atmospheric pop songs with a wistful, introspective bent.

Co-produced by the group and Brian Eno alumnus Benedict Fenner, these new tunes recapture some of the dreamy ambience that allowed the Cranberries to seduce America in the early '90s. "You and Me" has a softly shuffling rhythm and an ethereal, shimmering vibe reminiscent of the band's 1993 single "Linger." "Shattered" and "What's on My Mind" share a gentle, insinuating moodiness and are good showcases for Dolores O'Riordan's wispy, tangy vocals.

Of the more driving tracks, "Loud and Clear" stands out for its biting lyrics and appealingly slick, buoyant arrangement. Some other numbers drag on, or are dragged down by hubris--such as the hip-hop-laced "Copycat," on which O'Riordan sings, "The radio is sad. . . . Everybody sounds the same." The Cranberries are hardly in a position to bemoan (albeit cheekily) the lack of originality in pop music; but at their best, they continue to offer simple, bittersweet pleasures.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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