We all know those classic singles ‘Zombie’ and ‘Linger’, but what other songs would make it into a list of The Cranberries‘ best songs? The Limerick band veered from dreamy, jangly paeans in their early days to a heavier, rock-oriented sound in the mid-90s, before returning to something softer in their later era, excelling at each along the way. In no particular order, here’s our pick of their best efforts. Don’t agree? Let us know what would make your list instead.
We said this list was in no particular order, but what better way to kick things off than with the band’s best song? ‘Zombie’ is The Cranberries at their most powerful, protesting the violence during The Troubles and written in memory of Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, two boys who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington in 1993.
‘Ode To My Family’
“Unhappiness, where’s when I was young/And we didn’t give a damn?” sings Dolores O’Riordan over soft guitars and brushed drums on this wistful tune longing for her childhood. If it wasn’t beautiful enough, a string arrangment (composed by O’Riordan) comes in halfway through, to lift things to even more stunning heights.
Taken from The Cranberries’ most recent album ‘Something Else’, released last year, ‘Why’ is a haunting meditation on loss, written after the death of O’Riordan’s father. Her voice is full of emotion, while tremulous notes and distant backing vocals give the song an ethereal quality.
“Suddenly something happened to me/As I was having a cup of tea,” O’Riordan opens on this 1999 single about motherhood. “Suddenly I was feeling depressed/I was utterly and totally stressed.” It isn’t all gloomy, though – later, she sings: “So take my hand and come with me/We will change reality.”
The Cranberries’ first big hit was originally written by first singer Niall Quinn, but O’Riordan changed the lyrics when she joined the band, and nailed the feeling of first love in the process – even if that person doesn’t necessarily deserve your affections.
The band’s first single is another glorious ode to falling in love that gets more heavenly as O’Riordan’s feelings build. It all ends on a climax of surging, chiming guitars and the singer letting out a series of long-held “la“s that embody a carefree, loved-up satisfaction.
‘Just My Imagination’
One of the brightest, jangliest songs in the Limerick group’s back catalogue, ‘Just My Imagination’ finds O’Riordan declaring: “I have always kept my faith in love/It’s the greatest thing from the man above.”
This single, taken from the 1999 album ‘Bury The Hatchet’, sees The Cranberries on darker, heavier form, with drums bashing and guitars cutting out distorted, staccato chords. It’s fitting for the track’s theme – divorce.
One of the bands more recent cuts, ‘Tomorrow’ is a single taken from their 2012 album ‘Roses’. Detailing the practice of overthinking and worrying about things don’t really matter, it’s a reminder to live in the moment (“Tomorrow could be too late,” O’Riordan sings wisely in the chorus), and a sparkling piece of indie-pop to boot.
Similarly rock-focused is this 1996 anti-drugs song. “To all those kids with heroin eyes/Don’t do it, don’t do it,” instructs the band’s leader, urgently deploying her message over charging guitars.
‘When You’re Gone’
A sweet song from its opening “do-be-da”s, to O’Riordan’s declaration of a love so strong that “there’s nothing simple/When I’m not around you”.