Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan Swims to the Siren (UPDATED)



Three months ago, I told you guys that this thing we've been looking at here since Chris Cornell died-- whatever the hell it actually is-- was just beginning. And here we are, yet again.

Dolores O'Riordan, former lead singer for 90s dream pop superstars The Cranberries, died suddenly this morning in the Hilton London, just off Kensington Gardens. She was working on a new album with a new group called D.A.R.K at a nearby recording studio.





The cause of death is unknown as of this writing. O'Riordan had struggled with bipolar disorder and was also dealing with a troublesome back injury. Like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Lil' Peep, she was forthcoming with her struggles with depression. But 46 is too damn young to die, for anyone. 

Man, I just hate this fucking century.


I wasn't a huge fan of The Cranberries but certainly enjoyed their hits as much as anyone. Well, maybe not in the same exact way as anyone; unlike Chad and Caitlyn Q Mallrat, I knew exactly what I was looking at when I saw the video for "Dreams," and that was the music industry's latest attempt to xerox The Cocteau Twins, while glamming up the Twins' elusive formula with pretty faces and catchy hooks. 



Geffen had tried cloning the Cocteaux the year before The Cranberries hit the scene with The Sundays' second album, Blind. That album featured the track "Goodbye," which I was absolutely convinced was the Cocteau Twins, until I actually called my old pal Matt Pinfield at WHTG and was told it wasn't. It seems obvious today but they were still new then.

( And there's some more Mandela Effect shit there- I never knew The Sundays even made a video for "Goodbye." And I bloody well would have- I was obsessed with this album. Hmm, I'll have to gaze into Harriet Wheeler's eyes for several hours in hopes I can solve this mystery. The things I do for science ).

BONUS SYNC: O'Riordan died on the 28th anniversary of the release of the first Sundays album.

MONEY MAKES THE MUSIC

The sugar-high style of Smiths producer Stephen Street also went a long way in knocking the Berries' clunky songwriting into shape (the band's initial demos are awful in a way that only late 80s Indie bands could be awful). And as with the Twins a decade before, the BBC pushed them hard, even before their first record was released. 

The Cranberries were signed to Chris Blackwell's Island Records, then raking it in with U2. So there was clearly some serious money behind this thing. I wouldn't be surprised in U2 had a stake in the band, since they saw themselves as the Kings of Ireland at the time.


In that light, do note the fact that the "Dreams" video is essentially identical in concept to any number of Cocteau Twins videos, and repeatedly shows us a submerged-- or drowned-- O'Riordan.  

Plus, as a FB member pointed out, pearls.


I hope regular readers have gotten the gist of it all by now, that we're not just talking about some obscure Indie-haircut band from the early 80s but a weird kind of nexus, a weird break in the time-space continuum, a tear in some dimensional barrier. I still feel it when I play those old Cocteau records. In fact, they seem as powerful today as when I first heard them, maybe even more so. 

I certainly understand if you don't get it, but even so, the syncs are piling higher the Burj Dubai by now. We're way past any discussion of random chance here.


I realize it all might sound absolutely ridiculous, and maybe a year ago it would have sounded ridiculous to me, despite my history with this thing. But like I said, it just keeps on rolling and rolling.


Back when it came out, I affectionately renamed the first Cranberries album "Everybody Else is Ripping Off the Cocteau Twins, So Why Can't We?" But the 'Berries were not only ripping off the Twins, they were all ripping off Twins ripoffs like Sinead O'Connor and The Sundays.  

But hey, that's show business. Steal from the best.


Look at Tori Amos; after failing at more mainstream rock she essentially took Kate Bush's act--lock, stock and barrel-- all the way to the bank. So much so that it wasn't unusual to hear dimwits accuse Bush of stealing from Amos. 

And we won't even talk about the battalions of bands that rode the New York Dolls' act to superstardom. Damn, I'd be bitter were I in their shoes.


All of this was pretty well-known at the time. I mean, it doesn't get anymore establishment than The New York Times and Rolling Stone; The Cranberries were The Cocteau Twins for the masses (though the notion that the Twins owed anything to Jane Siberry is so groundless as to actually be insane).


Again, the industry's first big attempt at Cocteau-cloning was Sinead O'Connor, who scored a huge hit with a song written by arch-Cocteau apostle Prince. O'Connor wasn't even in the same galaxy as Elizabeth Fraser when it came to vocal chops, but was more conventionally pretty (even with the chrome-dome) and was-- at first-- more amenable to hit-making for its own sake. 

Unfortunately for her, O'Connor was too volatile and too damaged for the industry's liking. 

And of course, too outspoken. 


O'Connor took aim at sex predators in the Church way, way, way before it was safe to do so and paid dearly for it. She was proven to be a prophetess with this issue, but by the time vindication came for her, she'd already begun to succumb to the mental illness brought on by years of abuse at the hands of a sadistic, sociopathic mother. 

O'Connor wrote the stirring "Fire on Babylon" to process the damage but the music industry had already moved on by that point. 

There was also The Sugarcubes, whose Cocteau-soundalike "Birthday" got very heavy rotation on 120 Minutes (despite its fucked-up, pedo-friendly lyrics) but the band were unable to follow on their initial success and Bjork went on to become the patron saint of Fashion Week.



"Operation CIA."

Enter Dolores O'Riordan and the Cranberries. 

They had the hooks and O'Riordan had the wasted prom-queen look so beloved by early 90s stylists. Ever amenable, the 'Berries even lurched into grunge territory with their second album, and borrowed a cup of Sinead's angry nationalism with "Zombie," a broadside against the terrorism gripping Ireland and the UK in the 90s. 

Saying "terrorism is bad" wasn't the most insightful commentary on an ugly war that was in no small part constantly being hotted up by British intelligence and other outside elements, but the crunchy riffs, catchy chorus and archetypically-90s Samuel Bayer video were enough to make it a blockbuster.


But what most people didn't realize is that the Cranberry bandwagon sputtered on the launchpad before taking off. It wasn't until MTV put all their hit-making muscle behind "Linger" that the 'Berries reached escape velocity. 


Ah, yes-- MTV. 




A funny thing happened while The Cranberries were taking off-- the Cocteau Twins were crashing to the ground. 

The band-- fresh off the breakthrough Heaven or Las Vegas album (pushed to the hilt by MTV, incidentally), had signed to a division of Dutch behemoth Phillips. But then the bottom dropped out on them. 

Elizabeth Fraser was hospitalized in a psych-trauma unit before the Four Calendar Cafe album's release-- and after the tour supporting it. Her subsequent live performances-- a fusilade of tuneless, arrhythmic chirps, screams and barks --shocked and bewildered fans. A series of interviews with major music magazines showed a woman who was clearly in very serious trouble, but was nevertheless pushed into the public eye by her record company.

Four Calendar Cafe's lyrics-- now in more or less recognizable English-- were filled with references to the serious sexual trauma she had suffered in her youth. One song--"Theft and Wandering Around Lost"-- had Fraser confess to self-cutting before asking an unnamed abuser if she somehow had given him permission to rape her, before surrendering with the harrowing closing line, "Engulf me, I'm already dead." 

She wasn't being Emo.

Despite all this, Four Calendar Cafe was a perfectly serviceable bit of 90s guitar pop and is rated highly by some. It may not have been a huge hit, but the Cocteau Twins' very presence at a time when the entire music industry was so clearly invested in launching The Cranberries must have been problematic, especially in the midst of the Grunge wave, with its ostensible fixation on "authenticity."


Jeff Buckley lookalike drowned in Cranberries video from 1996

Fraser clearly had no business on the road (and certainly not on Jay Leno), and if her record company had one shred of humanity it would have let the band cancel the tour and sort their problems out. But that was clearly not on the agenda.

MTV then swooped in and aired an interview with a melting-down Fraser and a doped-up, incomprehensible Robin Guthrie, both visibly unwell and filmed in a distinctly unflattering light,  sitting on the floor in the dark. The interview opened with Fraser confessing that the music industry had fucked her head up and that she didn't "know who the hell I am most of the time." 

And it went downhill from there.

MTV News editors made sure the record-buying public got choice soundbites like "I'm nothing!" and "I'm sick, I'm a sick person." To top it all off, MTV spliced in live footage of Fraser looking and sounding spectacularly insane during a performance of "Carolyn's Fingers."

The Cocteau Twins were clearly ailing but what you are seeing in this clip is MTV killing them off by taking away their ace in the hole, their mystique

MTV was essentially a promotional arm of the music business, most-assuredly had musicians come to their studios in even worse shape than Fraser and Guthrie and made them look presentable. They clearly had no interest in doing so here. 

I can't say MTV (or Polygram, for that matter) deliberately set out to destroy the Cocteau Twins but I can't not say so either.


And by the time it was over, critics would add insult to injury by comparing the Cocteau Twins to their clones. Like The Cranberries.

And for a few years it worked beautifully for The Cranberries, their record company and their investors. Those were heady times and O'Riordan enjoyed a nice run as alt.rock's It Girl. 

She projected the right mix of sex appeal and Irish earnestness (even when sporting Elizabeth Fraser-style crewcuts and shags) and brought some much needed melodicism to alt.rock radio.

But once The Cranberry machine stopped shooting out cash, they too found out how cold it can be when you've been chucked out of the suites and into the streets. It's a terrible thing and Dolores O'Riordan and her mates did nothing to deserve what thousands of other blameless artists also experienced once they were no longer useful to the Machine.



Luckily, the 'Berries made a boatload and O'Riordan seemed to be wise with her earnings, even making a top 10 richest women in Ireland list a few years back. Sadly, all the money in the world can't keep the demon dog of depression away when it darkens your door and O'Riordan certainly saw some troubled times in her life. 

But name a gifted musician who hasn't.

But do note that Dolores derives from "Our Lady of Sorrows" and Reardon means "poet king." So the name-game was strong with this one.


But we're not talking about depression or even the machinations of the music industry here. We're talking about an avalanche of syncs, symbols and connections all seeming to tell us that we need to pay special attention to a reclusive, middle-aged songstress from way back in the day. 

How or why, I still have no earthly idea. I do have an unearthly one, however.

In that light, please note that O'Riordan died in a hotel a short distance from Royal Albert Hall, where Our Lady made her only public appearance in 2017, on the first day of Leo. The ostensible reason for the appearance was to discuss 1988's Blue Bell Knoll, which very much laid down the specific template bands like The Cranberries followed.


And remember that those tickets went on sale the day after Chris Cornell died in a hotel in Detroit. Also on the same day Twin Peaks: the Return premiered in Los Angeles.



Five days before tickets for Elizabeth Fraser's First Day of Leo appearance went on sale, the existence of a Frasier the Lion cult was revealed on The Leftovers TV series, starring David Lynch company player Justin Theroux (Mulholland Dr, Inland Empire).

I remember talking to a friend back in the Synchrostorm that kicked up in the wake of 9/11 and asking "why do these syncs have to be kicked up in the wake of so much death and suffering?" 

The answer I got? 

"Because no one would pay any attention to them if they weren't."




UPDATE: Well, I guess I expected this, but something besides music bonded Fraser and O'Riordan:
O’Riordan — whose sudden death at age 46 was announced by her publicist on Monday — previously revealed she was sexually abused as a young girl and was also open about suffering from mental health issues, including depression and bipolar disorder. 
In 2013, O’Riordan told LIFE Magazine she was molested for four years starting when she was 8 years old by someone whom she trusted. 
“I was only a kid,” the musician — who leaves behind three children, Taylor, 20, Mollie, 16, and Dakota, 12 (with ex-husband Don Burton) — told the outlet. “It gets hard as well when you have daughters because you get flashbacks when you’re with them and when you are watching them. You wonder, ‘How can anyone get satisfaction in any way, you know?'”

UPDATE: Speaking of the CIA, here's Brit Marling:




EPILOGUE: A BITTER PiL

But there's more. In this instance the weird Mandela Effect appearance of this duo of Fraser and Sinead (believe me, I'd have noticed this before), recorded for a benefit record for Northern Irish youth programs. Here's what I wrote a short while back:




And just to add the cherry on top, I discovered this stellar track featuring Our Lady and Sinead O'Connor, which for some bizarre reason (D::Wave) went totally under my radar for 20-odd years. That is, if this song actually existed then. I'm kind of thinking its existence was recently written into history. 

Say what you will about these Cosmodemonic entities inhabiting machine intelligences, just don't say they don't have exquisite taste in music.

Anyway, this is an alternate take of a benefit single featuring Feargal "For the love of all that's holy, please stop me before I sing again and ruin your Undertones memories" Sharkey, Sinead, Nancy Griffith and Bond-Villain Arch-Globalist Peter Gabriel™ (former singer for Genesis 6:4, birthname Ernst Stavro Blofeld). 


The Cocteau Twins' version is only about eleventy-trillion times better than the actual single and not only features Liz and Sinead at their peaks but really lets Jah Wobble's slinky bassline drive the train. Ol' Wob loves his Fraserites.


Wobble here is Jah Wobble, nee John Wardle. Wobble rose to prominence with the first real Post-Punk album, First Issue by Public Image Ltd. Wobble's basslines- drawing on the apocalyptic resonances of Dub Reggae- were much like Fraser's singing in that they seemed to open some kind of door, some gateway between the real and the imaginal.



"Be Still" was the only instance of Wobble and Fraser appearing on the same song, but the Wob was and is a huge lover of Fraserlings, and has recorded with several of them. 

Including, in this instance, Dolores O'Riordan. From the album Take Me to God.





And in this instance, Sinead. 

Note that "Be Still" was recorded in 1993, while the Cranberries were recording their first album.




Wob is also the Bass of God on Second Edition aka Metal Box. At this time PiL was mainlining the dark and weird energies of 1979 and this song-- based on a real-life kidnapping but repurposed to be sung from the POV of a murder victim-- seems in many ways to distill them. 

Not only that, but it also features one of the greatest bass-lines in human history.





The album only deepens the otherworldly effect, with this incredibly weird and mind-bending cover image.




I saw PiL in 1982 and it was one of the most powerful events I've ever experienced, even if the Wob was replaced by another guy. 

The overwhelming shamanic power of John Lydon may be hard to detect today, but in that room it had an overpowering physical presence. I saw hundreds of skinheads hang on Lydon's every word like bobbysoxers at a Sinatra show. To this day, I've never seen a performer command an audience the way he did. 

Bonus factoid: The Young and the Useless- featuring future Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz- opened for PiL. They were chased off the stage after informing the hospitable Boston skins that their city in fact "sucked."

Lydon may have attained that shamanic power as a child, when he was struck by meningitis and had to suffer both the disease and the agony of its treatments as well. His beloved mother never left his side, except to attend daily mass. 

So it was that Lydon was consumed with an unquenchable rage when the local parish priest said he was too drunk to read Lydon's mother her last rites.

Why does this matter? Well, if there's one band- more than any other-- you could point to as Cocteau Twins' initial inspiration and role model, it's Public Image Ltd. 

Garlands gets a lot of comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees but those in the know realize there's actually a PiL in the Cocteaux' belly.



SECRET SUN READING LIST