This album is... how should I put it... beautiful in a Pet Sounds-like sense of the word. Not because it's as beautiful as Pet Sounds, which it probably isn't if beauty can be measured with a circle and a ruler and an empty Coca-Cola can, but because it is just as self-consciously relying on creating a "proverbially beautiful" musical environment as Brian Wilson's masterpiece. In a very much Nineties way, of course - meaning you might probably want to stick around this thing for a minute before it woos you over. Not that the Cranberries are breaking much new ground on here, of course. For all I know, this music might not be much more than the sum of its influences; but then again, at least there are multiple influences here. Celtic elements - which are to be expected from an Irish band, of course - aren't even the major focal point on this debut album; they are just as responsible for the overall sound as is the band's obvious nod to the whole "ethereal" 4AD scene: I can hear the Cocteau Twins in every second song, and O'Riordan's vocal exercises are very much reminiscent of Liz Frazer. Apart from that, there's a lot of traditional Beatlesque instrumentation; a bit of Eastern atmospherics; and now and then, a nod to the grunge scene in Noel Hogan's gloomy, threatening guitar noises. Oh, and everybody keeps comparing the band to the Smiths, too, which, I guess, is quite a legally acceptable kind of occupation as well. And the songs blend well together into a prototypical "mood album" that as a result stands somewhere halfway in between 4AD and Adult Contemporary. Oh yeah, that's pretty usual when you're dealing with Irish bands: this is, after all, more or less what Clannad metamorphosed into, and then there are less successful and less talented followers like the Corrs (unless the Corrs started earlier... it's kinda hard to keep track with all the bands who operate on the "say it now and say it loud, I'm a Celt and I'm proud" principle, you know). What distinguishes the Cranberries is that at this point, they were extremely creative. If you're a fan of "mood albums", I say go for it! it took me a lot of listens to "get" the hook potential of all the songs because I tend to doze off when there's a lack of diversity, but I kind of got through it. I survived, and I can definitely say the songs on here are generally good. Generally good in the sense that the MOOD of the album is really established through well-defined melodic ideas rather than just the general atmosphere. The songs aren't pretentious - lyrically, they're mostly just competent romantic ballads or slightly obscure psychological ruminations, and there are next to none of those "sweeps of grandeur" where the artist can compensate for lack of melody with jarring power chords or overwhelming blasts of orchestration. But all the songs are very carefully written, and after a while they really start growing on you and you actually start to discern these tiny little melodic ideas and all. 'I Still Do' isn't one of the better tunes - in my opinion, a rather weak candidate for the opener - but just spend some time appreciating O'Riordan's vocal harmonies in the background and you'll see they are actually constituting the song's central point. (They're gorgeous, by the way). 'Dreams' starts out as if they were ripping off the Police's 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da', but then becomes more of a U2 thing, driven by a fun little vocal melody and more of those bedazzling "la la la"s from the vocalist. And lo and behold, just as you were starting to think that 'Sunday' was finally going to be a predictably lethargic one-chord-per-minute drone, it picks up a lively rhythm and becomes really pretty, with little string "washes" duelling with the song's bassline and O'Riordan's 'you mystify me, you mystify me' as the song's central hook. Beauty plus structure - ain't that my personal ideal? Ain't that yours? Come now! The real winning streak, though, begins with 'Pretty' - play that song real real loud in order to perceive its true power before reverting to quiet once and for all. 'You are so pretty the way you are' may not be a lyrical revelation, but O'Riordan certainly has that unperceivable mystique going for her - like a Liz Frazer actually stepping down from the clouds and addressing the listener straight to the face. Ah, sweet-voiced Irish ladies, now here's something to find true delight in. (This does not refer to Liz Fraser, of course, although I have no idea whether she's got any Irish blood in her. Probably doesn't have any veins left, they're all occupied with Elvish blood already). 'Waltzing Back' is the greatest Cocteau Twins song the Twins never wrote - it's easily O'Riordan's crowning moment of vocal glory on the whole album, where she can blow you away with that incredible yodelling modulation. 'Not Sorry' is the album's heaviest number, even if it starts out deceptibly - just an innocent-looking adult contemporary shuffle, before the chorus arrives and whisks you away to Grungeland with dinosauric guitar tones in the background as O'Riordan complains about being lied to. 'Linger' is just a perfect pop song, with inobtrusive orchestration carrying the melody and the catchiest chorus on the record. And so on... I mean, at this time the songs start getting way too repetitive for me to come up with new terms to describe them, so let me just state that the most melodically gorgeous song on the album is 'Put Me Down', which ends it on a note every bit as triumphant as 'I Still Do' was, uhm, obscure. But don't let that make you suppose that the non-mentioned songs are in any way inferior: this is one of the most consistent albums of the entire decade. (And I can easily state that without having to listen to any other record of the decade, because it's a hundred percent consistent - not a single song I'd want to omit). For every song, I can single out something that makes it endearing. Perhaps the ultimate thing that seduced me about the album is the totally humble atmosphere. Sure, the band isn't revolutionizing pop music, but they know it and they aren't kidding anybody. There's no pomposity or overtly straightforward, blatant, over-the-top emotionality involved. It's an inobtrusive, quiet little bunch of songs; if somebody put it in the background at a party you probably wouldn't even notice it. It's a record that intrigues you, but does so in an implicit, unobservable kind of way. If you don't like it, you probably won't hate it; if you do like it, you stand a very high chance of falling in love with it. Heck, just look at the title for God's sake! How more humble can it get? User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.