The thing with releasing a solo album after finding fame with a major band is that their resides a certain degree of expectation. A degree of preconceived ideas about what the output may or may not, should or should not sound like.
And so it is with The Cranberries singer, Dolores O’Riordan – her maniacal vocal bark as synonymous with the ’90s as bomber jackets and baggy t-shirts. And regardless of the album title, there will always be a hangover of comparison stoked by the fires of the past.
O’Riordan’s 2007 debut album Are You Listening? charted well across Europe, reaching No 11 in the European top 100 albums. And although it reached a comparatively modest No 26 in the UK, the Italians lapped it up and it charted as high as No 2.
O’Riordan has a unique ability to pen brilliantly understated and grounded melodies. She’s a technically brilliant singer, her voice is her servant and she can do with it as she pleases. But she never gets carried away, she never sings grandiloquently for the sake of it, never adorns her melodies with needless decoration.
Music is not so much about technical proficiency, but understanding that every note, riff and rhythm has a time and a place. And O’Riordan’s modesty of melody is endearing, and makes for a stronger record.
So yes, Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is awesome.
But it’s not her voice that’s under scrutiny. It’s her album. And that is, unfortunately, not awesome. The music is just too bland, toothless and soul-sappingly lifeless.
It’s You plods along with a rhythm section that walks on egg shells for fear of offending, and O’Riordan’s lyrics are trite and hackneyed couplets: “It’s you, you know you make me feel better/I knew, I knew when I was under the weather”.
The backing band for The Journey, meanwhile, sound like an aging pub covers troupe, reliving their lost youth with an embarrassing insouciance. Be Careful aims at the anthemic but sounds laboured and lost. Stupid is bloated and repetitive.
The opening tracks are the strongest. Switch Off The Moment gently rolls the album away from the starting grid with a lilting rhythm section and an infectious chorus, complete with a scything guitar line and O’Riordan’s skyscraping delivery.
Skeleton (the title arguably a reference to O’Riordan’s days spent battling anorexia) is another highlight – angsty, anthemic, and compelling.
But it’s not enough. And regardless of how good the voice is, if the music does not follow suit then there’s only so far you can get. It remains to be seen if the Italians will agree.