London Camden Falcon

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She tripped the Celtic Angel switch twice in [B]'Linger'[/B], once in [B]'Dreams'[/B] and [B]'Shattered'[/B] and that's enough to render [B]The Corrs[/B]' swollen-lipped smiles a great deal less sm

Can you yodel someone to a pulp? Can The Corrs be exposed as a sham of a babe-shamrock travesty simply by contrasting their lipstick ceilidh pouting with a flood of heartfelt trilling? These questions hang in the air as Limerick’s lilting champs The Cranberries prepare to hit the boards again after ‘dealing with’ the trauma of selling 28 million albums worldwide.

The hardcore fans calm their nerves, humming the [I]”doo doo-doo doooh”[/I] melody to ‘Ode To My Family’ as they wait for the New Dolores to show. They needn’t have worried. Before anyone can catch sight of her, the sound of silken purling permeates an organic plangency of acoustic chords, and, [I]”Ooooh ooooh ooooooh…” [/I]we’re safely back in the comfort zone of decent people’s music and lovely, lovely vocals.

The New Dolores appears to be enjoying her blonded-out self. The trio of fourth-album songs which open the show – ‘Promises’, ‘Animal Instinct’ and ‘Loud And Clear’ – witness a good deal of hopping about, some headbanging (particularly on the lite indie rocker ‘Promises’) and flashing of victory signs. In her gawky, to hell-with-dignity-dancing and the slightly rock’n’roll clothes (the capped T-shirt for that Suzi Quatro effect) a decision can be detected that – post-career hiatus and post-baby – she might as well have ‘fun’.

This being The Cranberries and not Fatboy Slim, however, the type of fun is tightly delineated. New album ‘Bury The Hatchet’ goes nowhere they haven’t gone before, relying on fresh air chord structures and O’Riordan‘s genius for splitting octaves to carry it through. It is, in fact, astonishing quite how unaffected by the ’90s The Cranberries are. The Sleeperboys are augmented by Sleeperkeyboards and Sleeperextraguitar tonight but rarely do they break out of a Johnny Marr‘n’Sinead in Help The Aged Charity Gig mode. It makes Catatonia sound like Led Zeppelin.

Oh they have shades of green, of course. The mild and gentle ‘You And Me’ and the ultra-mild and gentle ‘Saving Grace’ are counterbalanced by the clomping grunge anthem ‘Zombie’ (perfect for Marilyn Manson) and the raucous new tune ‘Delilah’, where Dolores ditches the trilling in preference for a grumpy housewife calling for a particularly disobedient dog. It’s actually pretty good.

The stylistic minutiae can only, however, be quibbling. The cut of Dolores’ dress (off-the-shoulder blue slip for the encore), that ropy synthesizer sound or even the commonplace lyrics don’t matter that much unless you’re compiling a history of edge culture, and The Cranberries appear quite happy over in the cutting hedge. New Dolores is still flashing V signs, and kicking her legs like an indulged kid as the encores – a feathery ‘Shattered’, jaunty ‘Desperate Andy’ and Blondie-pop addictive ‘Dreams’ – slip past.

So never mind the ballads. At least four times in the course of a pleasant, earnest, hummable, unambitious evening, Dolores fractures a high note in a way that hits everybody’s goo-goo sentiment neural trigger so hard they’ll buy two copies of the new album, no matter how Old Dolores it really is. She tripped the Celtic Angel switch twice in ‘Linger’, once in ‘Dreams’ and ‘Shattered’ and that’s enough to render The Corrs‘ swollen-lipped smiles a great deal less smug and secure another multiple-platinum Cran-album in Germany, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, Norway…