One for Friday — The Cranberries, “Twenty One”


When I started working in commercial radio, it was at a “new rock alternative station.” For the first sixteen weeks I was gainfully employed there, a mere two songs moved through the top spot of the Billboard chart relevant to our format: Green Day’s “When I Come Around” and Live’s “Lightning Crashes.”  These aren’t bad songs, but they are indicative of the sound that was coming to dominate the subgenre formerly known as college rock. The only acceptable sound was thudding guitars and the prevailing perspective was, as Kathleen Hanna sharply and accurately noted, “I’m a straight, white, middle class, male, rockstar guy, but I’m so fuckin’ oppressed.”

So it was nothing short of a blessing when an artist offering something at all different would break through the din. Luckily, the second album from the Cranberries, No Need to Argue, was just new enough — and successful enough — to keep kicking out singles that helped break up the sonic monotony. “Zombie” had been a major hit in the fall, and the station I now called home made space on the playlist for “Ode to My Family,” “I Can’t Be With You,” and “Ridiculous Thoughts,” gems all.

And I regularly retreated in the charmed solace of No Need to Argue on my own, finding something close to liberating transcendence in the nuanced layers of lead singer Dolores O’ Riordan’s voice. “Twenty One” is a prime example of a track I found enthralling. With simple, repetitive lyrics and lovely, spare music, the emotion of the song is conveyed almost entirely by the textures in her singing. It’s utterly gorgeous, and was a timely reminder that the music I adored wasn’t being obliterated by the likes of Bush and Silverchair. I was simply going to need to look and listen a little harder. And the effort would be worth it.

Listen or download –> The Cranberries, “Twenty One”

(Disclaimer: I assume No Need to Argue, like most of the Cranberries’ early catalog, remains in print as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the artist. This song is posted here not as a replacement for that commerce, but instead as encouragement to engage in it. The Cranberries are also one of those rare bands that is especially well-served by a properly curated “greatest hits” type release, but, for real, their sophomore release is a fantastic album beyond the singles. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

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