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Bands I Used to Like: The Cranberries

Posted by Greg / November 22, 2009

20091121-Cranberries.jpgOutside of Midnight Poutine, Greg Bouchard runs a blog called Bands I Used to Like, an exploration of his old record collection and 90s music culture in general. Tonight The Cranberries bring their reunion tour to Theatre Olympia, offering a rare cross-posting opportunity.

Between writing about music for Midnight Poutine and helping out Jeremy with the Weekend Playlist, I spend a couple hours each week combing through concert listings, checking out bands I don't recognize and checking off bands I like and want to see. Imagine the WTF?!? moment I had when I saw The Cranberies listed on Stillepost, just sitting there between weekly club nights and the normal crop of Montreal indie shows. The Cranberries? Like the Irish band from the mid-90s that wrote "Zombie" and "Linger" and probably some other songs too? Further internet investigation revealed that yes, The Cranberries embarked on a reunion tour earlier this month, playing together for the first time since their breakup (which apparently happened) in 2003. Hearing this took me back the the early 90s - a simpler time, when flannel of a looser variety abounded.

"No Need to Argue" was one of the first albums to enter my adolescent life. It came via my older sister, who had the parent-granted freedom to buy a wider array of "rock" music than I did at age eleven. As much as it feels like an important moment in my musical development, the album cover forever burned in my memory and The Cranberries always carrying an aura of fame, the fact is, the only track I can remember is "Zombie."

Given the mainstream popularity of grunge by 1994, it's no wonder "Zombie" became such a gargantuan hit. It followed the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" formula to the letter: quiet intro, loud chorus, angsty lyrics, climatic guitar solo, proper tempo for headbanging. It was perfect for laying on your couch and thinking about how society doesn't get you. The song became especially popular at my middle school dances because the cool kids could slowdance to it and the eternally dateless could start a mosh pit. I suspect it soundtracked the loss of many virginities around the world. I found myself looping it and singing along while writing this article, since even today it remains a catchy song with a kickass performance.

Consisting of only four chords, a basic drum beat, and a seven note guitar solo, it was also an immensely easy song for budding teen bands to cover at school talent shows. I'll never forget seeing one of my, let's say, more outgoing and unique classmates belt out the chorus with such enthusiasm as to spark naive speculation that she was having an orgasm onstage. It was hauntingly similar to this (no offense to these particular kids, I committed the same crime at one point):

Covering Zombie was an important lesson for a young musician. A song with simple parts was not necessarily easy to play well; you had to practice with your bandmates and pull everything together for that special spark. I'm sure anyone who has played in a band has "covered Zombie" at some point in their lives.

Even Andy from The Office gave it a shot (note: this video is hilarious and you MUST watch).

A true Cranberries fan might rail on me for acting like "Zombie" is the only song the band ever wrote. To them: my bad, but I'm not a true Cranberries fan and never really was. I say this to emphasize the point that the 90s was a rare period of conspicuous consumption in music. It was a time when kids like me would drop upwards of $20 on a CD containing one song they liked. "No Need to Argue" sold an absolutely mind-boggling 16.7 million copies worldwide. Those numbers simply don't exist anymore, especially for a band that didn't do anything really significant or important (i.e., they weren't Nirvana). Just for comparison, Kanye West's biggest album, Late Registration, was one of the most widely purchased albums of the past decade and still only sold about 6 million copies worldwide. As if to keep up their we-are-bigger-than-you-realize trick, The Cranberries' show in Montreal tonight has sold out, even at the high (for Montreal) price of $40 per ticket. They really must be sitting on a ridiculous amount of money by now.

In any case, it's pretty surreal to think that this band from our twenty-something collective past will actually take the stage in Montreal tonight. Initially I wondered if they would even play their original hits, since many bands on reunion tours like to remove such material for reasons of "artistic integrity." The Smashing Pumpkins are the most infamous recent example. However, this video from The Cramberries' performance in New York verifies that they are not only playing "Zombie," but shouting its name beforehand to pump up the audience.

The Cranberries play tonight at Theatre Olympia.
As I mentioned, the show has sold out, which means some Montrealers will come away with a story about "that time we got into a sold out Cranberries concert." Will that be you?



Jer / November 23, 2009 at 12:59 pm
Actually, the chords for Disarm by smashing pumpkins are surprisingly similar to Zombie. This discovery led to an unfortunate medley cover that I used to perform with a friend in university. After playing one verse from each song separately, I believe the climax occurred when I would sing the chorus to zombie at the exact same time my friend was singing the chorus to Disarm.

Sheer. Musical. Genius.

Why am I not sleeping on a pile of money?
Greg / November 23, 2009 at 05:54 pm
Believe it or not, I performed the same exact medley with a friend of mine in high school. Makes you wonder if we're all just drones controlled by the media. Creepy.
Christine / November 23, 2009 at 07:10 pm
("Zombie" playing on a mix CD in my dad's car)
"Do you like this song? I like it. It makes me want to kill some zombies. Yeah, zombie slayer."
-My dad
Valerie / November 24, 2009 at 12:39 am
Greg your blog is genius
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