wears the trousers magazine

dolores o’riordan: no baggage (2009)
August 10, 2009, 12:02 pm
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , , ,


Dolores O’Riordan
No Baggage •••
Essential Music

Best known as the voice of ’90s mavericks The Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan returns with a second solo set that bears all the hallmarks of the sound she carved out on 2007’s Are You Listening?, but also incorporates some interesting new flourishes. Naturally, O’Riordan’s solo work shares a number of similarities with that of her former band, not least her haunting vocal style and sometimes head-scratching lyrics. But No Baggage, billed as her most personal collection of songs since The Cranberries’ 1994 opus No Need to Argue, occasionally messes with the tried-and-tested formula of anthemic guitars and plaintive vocals in the verses giving way to propellant performances in the choruses. 

Indeed, few of the old ways are immediately apparent on catchy opener ‘Switch Off The Moment’, which finds O’Riordan singing of “mental anguish in my head” over sparse, funky-ish guitars before a chiming chorus that marries epic guitars to a lovely vocal performance, her pleasant multi-tracked harmonies and an interesting rhythmic change in the song’s bridge setting the tone for the songs to follow. ‘Skeleton’ is perhaps less memorable, with chugging guitars and a simple structure, and ‘It’s You’, while certainly pretty, is unremarkable. Still, it boasts a classic slow-burning stadium rock arrangement with clear, strong production as O’Riordan reminisces about “planting seeds, pulling weeds.”

Lead single ‘The Journey’ is less conventional, adopting an almost exotic percussion influence, but a comparatively quirky arrangement cannot mask a song that is essentially rather weak and dated. ‘Stupid’ is more successful, with O’Riordan’s beautiful vocals highlighting the spacious, atmospheric piano-based arrangement. ‘Be Careful’, despite its trite “be careful what you wish for” theme, is also an attractive swirl of shimmering guitars. The gorgeous choruses return for ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’, a strange little song whose Eastern introduction recalls Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Caroline’ from 1987’s Tango In The Night. This song, more than most, resonates with the chiming beauty of The Cranberries’ better material.

Elsewhere, O’Riordan has dubiously opted to include a re-recorded version of ‘Apple Of My Eye’ from her previous album, which, despite a fuller arrangement, hardly transforms the song. Still, it’s one of the album’s pretty highlights, and obviously very personal to her. The album reaches its climax with the poignant ‘Lunatic’, a spacious piano ballad, and the evocative closer ‘Tranquilizer’, saving two of the record’s best for last.

Those unconvinced by O’Riordan’s previous output are unlikely to be swayed by No Baggage. All the quirks and mannerisms displayed since The Cranberries’ debut in the early 1990s remain, from the unfailingly strong Irish accent to the sometimes, ahem, entertaining lyrics, but some of the songs also share in common with The Cranberries’ material a love of melodic guitars and beautiful choruses. Aside from some subtle exoticism, No Baggage ultimately fails to add much that’s new, but it’s a pleasant, solid record featuring some genuinely attractive melodies and vocal performances. With its more widescreen sound and crisp arrangements, there’s arguably a case for it being stronger than its predecessor – and O’Riordan fans will find much to enjoy.

Matt Barton
UK release date: 24/08/09; www.myspace.com/doloresoriordan


‘The Journey’


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It’s great to find a crytical and intelligent review; congratulations.
I think NB is a good album, but I realize that Dolores’s voice is quite different (maybe weaker and whispering) than before. What do you think?

Comment by verny

[…] a string of dates between September and October to promote her upcoming second album No Baggage [review], out on August 24th. No official reason was given for the cancellation, but the following message, […]

Pingback by the cranberries to reform? « wears the trousers magazine

[…] abandoned her plans to tour behind the release of her second solo album No Baggage, out this week [review], with the not-so-cryptic aside that “what was old, just may become new again.” In […]

Pingback by the cranberries confirm reunion plans « wears the trousers magazine

[…] 2/7] 08 Whitney Houston – I Look To You [Chris Catchpole 30/8] 09 Dolores O’Riordan – No Baggage [Matt Barton 10/8] 10 Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody [Matt Bregazzi […]

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