The Cranberries | Wake Up and Smell the Coffee | MCA Records

The early ’90s Irish rock band that combined pre-Brit pop textures with a touch of the Celtic world returns to their roots on Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. Following their 1999 critically ignored Bury the Hatchett, the new Cranberries album relies again upon the use of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan Burton’s clear, chiming vocals on ballads.

Many fair-weather fans abandoned the quartet after 1995’s To The Faithful Departed, the album that departed from the melancholies of “Linger” and the na•ve exuberance of “Dreams.” The most notable nail in the coffin, the track “Salvation,” was a political rant more in line with the photo-ripping Pope-hater Sinead O’Connor.

The Cranberries usher in the new century, but without the luster and hard sounds of their previous two efforts. Muting that ethic, the album turns up the warmer sounds that defined this band in the first place: short, sweet and hypnotic ballads.

The opening track “Never Grow Old,” is slowly driven by O’Riordan Burton’s distinctive voice. “Analyse” picks up the pace a bit, with O’Riordan Burton’s trilling vocal stamp. The title song, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” continues in the same fashion and finally dwindles down, leading to the slow, whimsical ballad, “Chocolate Brown.”

The Cranberries continue their tradition of alternative Irish rock and with O’Riordan Burton’s angelic voice still intact, it may be enough to dazzle fans. Briefly. Whether fan or not, one could foresee becoming depressed and easily bored by this CD.

[Armando Alvarado]