The Cranberries get bogged down Album review: "To the Faithful Departed" is laden with simple-minded political lyrics that are not worth hearing.

Generally, when critics complain about pop stars using their music as a political platform, what they're really saying is either "Where do these guys get off having such wrong-minded opinions?" or "Since when does being able to play guitar make you a political philosopher?"

So, before laying into the new Cranberries album, "To the Faithful Departed" (Island 314 524 234), allow me make it clear that I have no objection to the band's politics, which include such controversial views as "war is awful" and "drugs are bad." Nor do I have any problem with pontificating pop groups. After all, which Paul Simon would you rather listen to -- the singer or the senator?


No, what bothers me about the message in "To the Faithful Departed" is that it's so stupidly put.

Take "Salvation." Given the growth in pop music's pro-drug content of late, it ought to be refreshing to hear a band arguing that religion is better for the people than opiates. But if you heard a rock singer urging, "To all those kids with heroin eyes/Don't do it don't do it/Because it's not not what it seems," would you: A. Think, "What responsible young people!" and make a mental note to buy a copy for that nephew of yours with the earring, or


B. Roll your eyes and mutter, "Yeah, right"?

Obviously, "B" is the standard rock and roll response, since no real rock band could so unironically buy into the tsk-tsk rhetoric of "Just Say No." But "Salvation" takes such an earnest, punk-rock tone that it's clear the band is totally serious.

Then there's "I Just Shot John Lennon," which describes Lennon's death as "a sad and sorry and sickening sight" (nice alliteration), and "War Child," which reminds us that war is not the fault of children (quick, phone the U.N.!). By the time I got to the self-consciously dramatic "Bosnia," with its theremin and children's chorus, I was praying this was all some elaborate prank by the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" crew.

What prompted the band's sudden urge to belabor the obvious? A glance at the album credits shows that unlike the band's first album, which featured just three songs by singer Dolores O'Riordan (the rest were co-written by O'Riordan and guitarist Noel Hogan), only four of the 13 songs on "Faithful Departed" weren't written by the singer. Factor in the degree to which O'Riordan's singing downplays the quiet croon of "Linger" in favor of a growling, yodeling approach apparently on loan from Siouxsie Sioux, and it seems as if our Dolores is desperate to Make a Statement with her music.

Trouble is, she has nothing to say. "The Rebels" disguises its emptiness quite cleverly, thanks to an utterly unintelligible chorus ("It was an oatmeal, he was a final blind, he was an op-ed, dee dee dee dee" is what it sounds like), but there's no such camouflage for the other songs. Instead, the predictable balladry of "When You're Gone" and the imitation U2 of "Forever Yellow Skies" make it clear that the band's music is running on empty.

Maybe that's why "To the Faithful Departed" sounds like a work of obligation rather than inspiration. But if this is the kind of music the Cranberries must make to meet their album release schedule, they may find that the ranks of the "departed" will include many of their fans.

Pub Date: 4/30/96