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oriordanDolores O’Riordan – No Baggage
August 25, 2009
Zoe Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

Looking back on the alternative music movement of the early ‘90s, very few of the artists and bands that were so highly regarded at the time can still be put on the same pedestal a decade or more removed. Most of the material comes off sounding extremely dated and the reputations didn’t last much past all the hype. Singer/songwriter Dolores O’Riordan, former leader of Irish band The Cranberries, is one artist that survives the aforementioned process, remaining a dynamic and vibrant singer and songwriter years after her first appearance in 1993. Her former band may have fallen by the wayside had it not been for the dual ferocity and subtlety that her performance style brought to the table, leaving them amongst the few ‘90s acts that still retains their merit.

O’Riordan is in a different place than she was when The Cranberries’ first single, “Dreams,” debuted on the charts over fifteen years ago. Whereas then her approach was more upfront and direct to match the guitar-based attack of her band, the singer now finds herself in a much more subdued frame of mind. As with her debut solo effort, 2007’s Are You Listening?, O’Riordan has taken things into a more Indie-pop arena, her material more akin to Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan than the harder-edged grunge sound of The Cranberries.

Now, on paper, this sounds disastrously boring. But O’Riordan’s saving grace is the blatant honesty and realism her solo output relies upon. Her latest effort, 2009’s No Baggage, finds the singer reflecting on her life with equal parts of sentimentality and closure. In one breath, O’Riordan can turn her back on her past and reflect on the good times that have gone by. It’s an endearing quality that makes otherwise mediocre tracks like “It’s You” and “Stupid” possess a level of depth and meaning that few other artists are able to convey without sounding maudlin or overtly cheesy. O’Riordan’s emotions are real and are something that listeners that have grown alongside her can easily relate to.

That’s not to say that No Baggage has no merits outside of O’Riordan’s staunch honesty. Although the more primal side of her vocal delivery witnessed on such Cranberries’ favorites as “Zombie” and “Salvation” is missed to a sizeable degree, the more withdrawn, melodic side more than amply makes up for the absence. O’Riordan layers some truly beautiful vocal harmonies throughout the album’s eleven tracks and shows that quiet does not necessarily equal dull. This can most adequately be heard on the updated version of “Apple of My Eye,” a gentle ode to her native Ireland that is the perfect encapsulation of everything the singer is attempting to accomplish in her solo career.

No Baggage may not be the album of the year. It may not even be album of the month. But it is the perfect showcase for an older and wiser Dolores O’Riordan, a singer and songwriter who has aged gracefully and maintained a level of integrity that few artists can claim a decade and a half down the road. For what her latest material may lack in terms of originality or depth it more than makes up for with its directness and sincerity. With more albums like this in the future, Dolores O’Riordan will certainly be a name that will continue to be spoken of in a positive light.

– Ian Rice

To purchase a copy of No Baggage, please click here.


August 24, 2009 - Posted by | classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, Rock | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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