Sound — 7
The current state of The Cranberries is tough to assess. Having reunited after years apart tending to different projects, their 2012 comeback album, "Roses," didn't quite re-establish the band's unity. Just a year later, frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan raised a lawsuit against co-founding lead guitarist Noel Hogan (the secretive case was settled in 2015), and in the meantime, O'Riordan was also looking for other music projects to work on - she would link up with former The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke's new band, D.A.R.K., to release their debut album, "Science Agrees," in 2016.
While their continued touring shows that, at the very least, The Cranberries are still willing to work together, the band's new album, "Something Else," is a tentative next step. Primarily being a greatest hits album redone in an acoustic folk style (with the Irish Chamber Orchestra providing a string quartet throughout), it's not hard to see this move as relishing in the band's former glory from over twenty years ago. Nevertheless, some of the acoustic versions of their classics work really well. The electric-to-organic conversion succeeds with flying colors in "Zombie," where the gravitas of the chords themselves are appreciated instead of the shoegaze distortion that powers the original, as well as "You And Me," where the synth parts are substituted with perky, staccato bows from the string quartet, and the bass riffing and some additional banjo makes "When You're Gone" shine nicely. Also trading off the gentle, well-harmonized original vocals in favor of solo singing, O'Riordan's vocals carry the torch with aplomb in "Linger" and "Ridiculous Thoughts," and mingle with the strings in a call-and-response fashion in "Free To Decide." Only in a few cases do the acoustic rebuilds feel weaker by design - "Ode To My Family," "Just My Imagination" and "Animal Instinct" don't bring much more to the table than the originals, and the string sections can't quite emulate the iconic jangle riff of "Dreams."
"Something Else" also contains three original songs, and while those new compositions stick with the acoustic folk theme of the album for the sake of cohesion, they also have a bit of trouble really standing out in the album. Whereas "Why" resonates with a formidable vocal melody and a peppering of mandolins, the general acoustic instrumentation in "The Glory" blurs in with the rest of the album's main sound. In contrast to that, "Rupture" harnesses a different vibe - with its deep drumbeat, piano melody, and whispering vocals sounding similar to Massive Attack or Portishead, it makes for a good change of pace without being too against the grain.
Lyrics — 6
In the few new lyrics in "Something Else," O'Riordan essentially picks up where she left off in "Roses," still showing a deep sadness over a sense of heartbreak and separation. This is most obvious in "The Glory," which uses the same imagery as the eponymous closer in the previous album in a slightly more hopeful light ("I see the rose / I see the glory in your eyes / And winter comes and then it snows"), though the other songs are more embedded in O'Riordan pining for a miracle to save her from emotional disarray ("Save me, save me, save me, save me someone" in "Rupture"; "Tell me that you're not feeling lonely / Somewhere in between where and why" in "Why").
Overall Impression — 7
Because its contents are mostly material that was first made a while ago, "Something Else" can only go so far in terms of being a standout album for The Cranberries' catalog. At worst, it can be considered an adult-contemporary repurposing of '90s alt rock, but it warrants more credit than that. With most of these acoustic renditions proving their worth, as well as the few new songs being decent additions to the folk music theme, The Cranberries prove they can operate well in an unplugged fashion.