Roses finds all of the Cranberries’ original members plus original producer Stephen Street back together eleven years after their coda Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. It’s no wonder, then, that they are picking up right where they left off, with the same adult pop polish that made them one of greatest U.K. indie groups of the early ‘90s.
The best of the Cranberries’ gentler songs have always had an effortlessly dreamy quality to them that gives listeners no choice but to float along for the ride. Unfortunately, none of the contemplative material on Roses falls into this category, instead wearing out their welcome with equally banal melodies and lyrics. Dolores O’Riordan really has nothing to say in “So Good” or “Astral Projections,” both weak cuts which suggest that the Cranberries are more content now with pretty folk-pop for pretty folk-pop’s sake than they ever were before their hiatus.
The liveliest songs, on the other hand, are also the best here. “Tomorrow” is soaringcarpe diem urgency set to a classic Cranberry swing, the album’s lead single and obvious high point. The boisterous rocker “Schizophrenic Playboys” finds O’Riordan warning of sexual predators, a most welcome shot of lustful energy in the middle of an otherwise stolid album.
While it’s true that Roses boasts impressive levels of professionalism and maturity, it is ultimately more predictable than reliable. Not even O’Riordan’s brilliantly breathy brogue can salvage Roses from adult alternative mainstream mediocrity. Strong pop hooks and originality are lacking here, and no band, not even the Cranberries, can thrive on finesse alone.
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Mike Tony is the DJ of Popscene with Mike Tony, that airs Saturdays from 10am-noon on WQHS.org.