The Cranberries’ most memorable song from the ’90s is the politically charged single “Zombie,” with its smoldering immediacy and Dolores O’Riordan’s biting vocals. The rest of the Irish group’s output (including the higher-charting “Linger”) was pleasant but not particularly enduring, featuring mellow alterna-pop tunes and dreamy vocal melodies. Roses, the group’s first studio album since 2001, follows the same formula, picking up sonically right where the group left off. O’Riordan’s fiery wail gives an urgency to “Schizophrenic Playboy,” but it’s the only song on the album with any kind of drive. The rest of Roses is lilting folk-pop that struggles to make a lasting impression, and tunes like the cooing “Fire & Soul” and delicate, childlike “Losing My Mind” flounder with a thin, insubstantial sound. Missteps such as the cabaret whisper of “Waiting In Walthamstow” and the clumsy, diary-style lyrics of “Raining In My Heart” sound like the Cranberries still shaking off the rust of a decade-long hiatus.
Even with such issues, these songs do have moments of loveliness. The album-opening “Conduct” shimmers with a somber tone, and O’Riordan’s confident vocals find the group returning with an understated poise. The song captures The Cranberries of the past beautifully, but that’s a double-edged sword: The group has successfully channeled its signature sound after a decade of silence, but the lack of growth makes Roses feel stuck in the past.