in the end.jpg

Before O’Riordan’s death, she was reportedly very excited about this project.

On Friday, The Cranberries released its eighth and final album, “In the End.” The members wrote all of the songs on the album leading up to Dolores O’Riordan’s death in 2018. It’s an unexpected late-career high and remarkable swan song for O’Riordan that should ensure the band is remembered for their music rather than any celebrity soap opera. Before O’Riordan’s death, she was reportedly excited about this project. These songs are among some of the best The Cranberries have done.

Musically, the band’s trademark Smiths’ chimes and New Order bass lines are augmented by strings and pianos. O'Riordan's spectral force soars with passion throughout, right from the subtle, opening whispers of the lead single, “All Over Now.” The album’s sound begins with melodic guitar lines and a hypnotic vocal line. The haunting chorus is a spellbound compass point for the heartbreak to come.

“Wake Me When It’s Over” recalls the hit track, “Zombie,” and O’Riordan’s crystal voice is pure and heartfelt. In contrast, ballads “A Place I Know” and “Illusions” are strong and full of nostalgic tenderness, reminiscent of “Linger.” The song dives into the journey of trying to survive the things that haven’t killed them yet, but it’s difficult to let go of the pain. One wishes to “wake up” once a terrible moment in one’s personal lives has passed.

The Cranberries can bring the 90s’ back to present day as “A Place I Know” sounds like a song directly from its 1993 debut. “Catch Me If You Can” brings the group’s more electronic side, which isn’t a first. Can be heard on songs such as “Electric Blue.”

The record moves toward a slower-pace with “Illusion” and picks up to another catchy Cranberries song with “Crazy Heart.” While many listeners thought the tears were over, “Summer Song” comes in next, as the beautiful and peaceful track holds a strong meaning that can be interpreted in so many ways that one’s mind can’t help but try to fill in the blanks of O’Riordan’s style. The songs cool down a bit with “The Pressure,” as it somewhat takes all worries and “pressure” off of listeners.

The record ends with the title track, “In The End:” a song listeners don’t want to hear because it means it’s over. This is the final Cranberries song listeners will hear unless additional unreleased material hits the surface in the future. But for what’s known now, this is it. The record closes with an important message, stating, “Isn’t it strange that everything you’ve wanted / wasn’t everything that you’ve wanted in the end.”

This isn’t just a fitting release, it’s a fully formed “thank you” from Dolores to the fans. The band built the best possible album from what remained, keeping her vibrant spirit alive. The three remaining members must’ve found it emotionally difficult to finish “In the End,” but that turmoil has produced what’ll be seen in time as one of the finest releases by The Cranberries.

However, there’s a curiously uplifting spirit to it, a sense of properly finished business and a smart and stylish farewell. Listeners will never see the likes of O’Riordan and The Cranberries again, but at least “In the End” is another time capsule of immortality in a world where life is fragile.

Contact Devin Townsend at towns2dm@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.