Review: Jennifer Nine, Melody Maker, Mar 1993

Gradual pleasure, this one. Not because it takes long to sidle beneath your skin, because it doesn’t. But it spreads like a slow smile on the face of the one you love.

Personally I think it has a lot do with the letter “r” coming from a country where this consonant is pronounced properly, I’ve a certain sympathy for the Irish , who do it too. Dolores O Riordan knows, among other , how to use her “rrrr”’s, and it’s a jumping off point to understanding the lovely un-sentimentality of her voice, and its curling, brisk, quiet touch.

Take “linger”, for example, though not my copy. Its got lots of “r”’s and you hear them loud and clear through the jimmy Webb-coloured strings and all the other gentle sounds (guitar, always the pristine guitar) that producer Stephen Street sifts out with a careful, even hand. And maybe its because of those sharp corners that, held up against the Sundays (to whom they will always be compared, for the post smiths atmospherics as much as for the girl singer/dreamy guitar pop configuration), The cranberries sound infinitely less cultivated. In the sense of the picket fences, tidiness, and prim precocity, that is.

You’d be hard pressed to find a point on this record where loud angsty bits underscore The Cranberries proud intentions. Although at points, its true, the drums thud with a blood pulsing command. (wanted still can’t) that does the work of any screaming riffs you’d care to name. Or ,on pretty , which does everything but ape its title in the way you’d expect, the whiff of a New order –ish melancholy bass line tugs at the memory banks.

If there’s a lyrical agenda for this record, and I don’t doubt that there is. The cranberries make it shimmer and dance just outside the reach of ears. It might well be about the gulf between the short names we give things-regret defiance love and no longer love and the shifting elusive truth of what they’ve become. Each time Dolores sings “ I don’t want to leave you”/ Even though I still do/ I don’t want to love you but I still do each repetition offers greater, sadder little truths. Or, on “dreams”, whose buoyant dynamics are as exhilarating as watching a horse’s legs gather into a gallop, she exclaims “its never quite as it seems/cos you’re a dream to me” with such evident, plainspoken delight that makes more sculpted words of romance look shabby and forced in comparison.

Like many small things, Dolores voice is neither as simple nor as frail as it seems, and there’s a world of headstrong energy inside it. It’s in the weird ululations that conclude “dreams” verging close to the unearthly; it’s there, too in the brittle bones of waltzing back. In which she gulps “who gave them the right?” over and over, as thirsty for justice as for air. The bleakly gorgeous, piano haunted “not sorry” shows she could easily be Mary Margaret O’Hara, or Sinead, if she liked. And in contrast, and with equal ease, she makes I will always , a dreamy amble, and the album closing put me down, all effortless meringue clouds and sun showers. Countless times, while listening to this record, I’m on the verge of recognising some favourite forgotten song, something sad or comforting. But I can’t seem to pin them down, as hard as I think around the dusty corners of my record collection. I think, in fact it’s simply the sound of this record, already all the way through my bones.