Whether or not there would be a final Cranberries’ album hinged on what was on a hard drive on the other side of the world.
Last year the surviving members of the Irish band began combing through unfinished vocals that singer Dolores O’Riordan sent to Ireland before her death a few months before.
What they had intrigued them, but they awaited with some anxiety the delivery of O’Riordan’s hard drive from her New York home.
Relief came as soon as it was plugged in. Her urgent, powerful voice was all over rudimentary songs she hadn’t gotten around to email.
“It was just like winning the Lotto,” said Noel Hogan, the band’s lead guitarist and co-writer. “And that was it. We had the songs.”
— The Cranberries (@The_Cranberries) March 7, 2019
Like a parting gift, O’Riordan left enough strong vocals on the demos that the Cranberries were able to fashion them into their eighth and final album, In the End, out on Friday.
It’s an 11-track album with lyrics that explore personal turmoil over the Cranberries’ melodic, driving Celtic alt-rock.
The band insisted the album be of the highest quality or they wouldn’t release it.
“Before we went into the studio, we kind of set the bar saying, ‘OK if it’s not good enough, it’s not going to make the cut’,” drummer Fergal Lawler said.
The Cranberries used demo vocal tracks on past albums when a new song would excite O’Riordan and she would deliver a passionate demo version that she’d be unable to achieve later in a studio.
On January 15, 2018, 46-year-old O’Riordan accidentally drowned in a bathtub after drinking in her London hotel room.
Hogan said O’Riordan had turned a corner in her life in the years before her death, saying she had her bipolar condition under control and had started a new romantic relationship.
The songs on In the End mine a time of turmoil, with lyrics like “I wonder when I should give in” and “I feel the storm is coming in.”
But they also celebrate love: “You are my everything” and “When I see your face/All of my worries dissipate.”
“Things were looking up. That’s what a lot of these songs are about,” Hogan said.
The Cranberries made a splash when their 1993 debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? sold millions of copies and produced the hit single Linger.
Other later hits included Zombie and Dreams.
Hogan recalls first realising how special O’Riordan’s voice was while recording Linger. Her soprano could suddenly drop and she somehow found an extra, breathy gear at the very top of her highest note, almost a yodel.
“We’re all looking at each in the room going, ‘Where did that come out from?’ Because she was so small and tiny, you didn’t expect that. And then she only grew from that point on.”
Recording the new album was an emotional time for the surviving members, including Hogan’s bassist brother, Mike. The band worked on the songs with their long-time producer Stephen Street.
In the End will be the last Cranberries album, the bandmates vow.
They won’t look for another lead singer. They hope they’ve done her justice. And they hope fans like the last songs.