[HOT TRACK]Cranberries Return, Creamier

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[HOT TRACK]Cranberries Return, Creamier

A listener encountering for the first time the Irish band the Cranberries and the crooning, sighing and spellbinding voice of Dolores O'Riordan usually has one of two reactions: Either he becomes totally hooked by their distinct sound and charisma or turned off by O'Riordan's detours into cloying or misguided attempts at originality.

But originality was what led to the success of the band's 1993 debut album, which posted big sales in Korea as well as in other major markets. In fact, after that breakthrough album, many local singers tried to emulate O'Riordan's versatile vocals - though now, unfortunately, it's Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera they're taking after.

After two years off, the band has recorded its fifth album, "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee," to be released Tuesday. In contrast to the politically-charged but at-times callow sort of messages that constituted the band's earlier trademark, the sound from the new offering is more sophisticated and embellished. If the others were focused on the vocals, which swiftly switched from powerful shouting to coquettish crooning, "Coffee" is more stable and relaxed. But O'Riordan's prominence has not been minimized; rather, she seems matured and more in tune with when to sigh, shout or croon.

Even in the title track, which most resembles the band's past hits, O'Riordan sings with a clearer and stronger tone, taking care not to overdo it. The vocalist, married to the band's tour manager, associates such self-control with the recent birth of her first child. "When you give birth," she said, "you find yourself no longer concerned about stupid problems that used to constantly bug you."

The optimistic tone of the album is established with the opening track, "Never Grow Old," a standout for its simple but clear drum and guitar accompaniment to moderated vocals. One of the most commendable tracks is "Every Morning," with its uplifting and dreamy melodics. But "Coffee" isn't all wine and roses. In "Time Is Ticking Out," O'Riordan reminds listeners that there was a thing called Chernobyl and that the ozone layer is shrinking. The album concludes with two bonus tracks, including a live version of the old hit "Salvation."

O'Riordan certainly seems to have donned rose colored glasses. "Suddenly I discovered the beauty of life that I'd never been aware of," she said of the feel of the new album. "Don't worry about tomorrow or next year. Just catch the beauty floating around you at this very moment."

by Chun Su-jin

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