As the final few days of 2014 are coming to a close, I wanted to highlight a few anniversaries. Most importantly is the twenty years since the release of an album full of music that has changed my life and gotten me through everything from illness, to loss of a loved one, to the end of an important relationship.
The Cranberries released their second studio album in 1994 and this has remained, not only my favourite, but the favourite of so many others. Songs like “Ode To My Family” and “Zombie” remain this Irish band’s biggest known hits of all-time, but it’s in every song and beautifully haunted lyric that I find solace and refuge from some of the harshness of life.
I know this particular album may not hold the same meaning for many people as it does for me, but I urge you to listen to it sometime if you haven’t already.
When I was eleven or twelve years old my sister brought home a mixed tape from a boy on our school bus. He was from an Irish family and he gave my sister this Irish band to listen to. They were called The Cranberries and right away that name caught my attention. I shared a room with my sister and I started out listening to what she listened to because that’s what a little sister did.
Once I listened to the selection of songs however, a mixture from “Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We” (1993) and “No Need To Argue” (1994), I was mesmerized and I was hooked.
I soon would confiscate the mixed tape and would wear it out, eventually taking more interest in the band than my sister. I would listen until the point of wearing out the tape, until I was gifted a copy of my very own as a get-well present, during one particularly long and unexpected hospital stay, near the end of 1996 it was.
What it means to me now and what it meant to me then …
Ode To My Family:
“Understand the things I say. Don’t turn away from me.
‘cause I’ve spent half my life out there. You wouldn’t disagree.
Do you see me? Do you see. Do you like me, standing there?
Do you like me standing there? Do you notice? Do you see me? Does anyone care?”
As I’ve struggled to fit in with the world, I have felt separate many times, invisible and yet glaringly obvious. The gawkers I felt watching. The staring that I could not truly see. Leading to the thoughts of will I fit in and will I find belonging? Wanting to be seen as anyone else might be seen.
“Unhappiness, whereas when I was young and we didn’t give a damn. We were raised, to see life as fun and take it if we can.”
The themes of family and a past of mine now, a place where I belonged. A freer childhood of innocence and security, I could not ask for and you would not find.
“Understand what I’ve become. It wasn’t my design. And people everywhere think better than I am.”
Feeling like a fraud sometimes, somehow, as everyone does at one time in their lives. The events that have shaped me leave me with jagged edges and some corners smoothed down.
Feelings of belonging, always felt with them, but not when I go out there. Never to duplicate what they have given and give to me. What does the rest of the world know or care of these things and of me? Will this sense of belonging ever be duplicable out there, ever again?
I can’t Be With You:
“Lying in my bed again and I cry ‘cause you’re not here. Crying in my head again and I know that it’s not clear.”
Longing for that one I know I can no longer have. All such sorry substitutes, who will compare, but still I look and I search, always hoping, always.
“But it’s bad, and it’s mad, and it’s making me sad because I can’t be with you.”
It’s the letting go of what should be, what’s not meant to be that creates so many feelings of desperation and regret.
“Thinking back on how things were and on how we loved so well. I wanted to be the mother of your child and now it’s just farewell. Put your hands in my hands and come with me. We’ll find another end. And my head, and my head, on anyone’s shoulder, ‘cause I can’t be with you.”
Still in love sounds so horribly pathetic, such a thing to admit. I wondered than and I wonder now at the young love spoken of.
“Still in love with you.”
A dark night, so many years ago.
Age ten, eleven, twelve…I grew up these last twenty years, going on twenty one myself.
Driving through the countryside at night, the haunting sound of Twenty One ringing so sombrely in my ears, nearly lulling me to sleep or at least a strange peaceful trance.
Couldn’t then imagine being twenty one years, but that year has come and gone. I’ve long since passed by, on and on and I hurtled straight into my thirties.
“Twenty-one. Twenty-one. Twenty-one.”
These two numbers, put together and repeated ring in my ears and bring on that trance-like state, closest I’ve yet come to being hypnotized.
The song to become a hit, bigger than they probably could have imagined.
“Another head hangs lowly. Child is slowly taken. And the violence cause such silence. Who are we mistaken?”
My love of the Irish people, and yet a place I had never been to. Such history and violence I could only hear in her lyrics, her pain at the helplessness of it all evident when she sings.
“With their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns, they are fighting. They are crying. They are dying.”
I slowly became more aware of its historical reference and meaning, as I grew to understand more of these things and our world, past and present.
“It’s the same old theme since nineteen sixteen.”
What changes there and everywhere where violence persists? I want to scream out the lyrics in frustrated rage, helpless in my smallness, and still, and yet, so I listen to her singing words of mothers losses instead.
“Something has left my life and I don’t know where it went to.”
So few lyrics in this one. So few are needed. Soft piano and violin wrap around my heart and pull its strings tight as if on an instrument.
“My identity. Has it been taken? Is my heart breaking, on me? All my plans they fell through my hands, they fell through my hands on me. All my dreams, it suddenly seems…it suddenly seems. Empty.”
A future rearing up dark, blank, devoid of anything else. My life, ending up not at all where I thought it would, fearing an encroaching emptiness that could swallow me whole. It’s an emptiness I shake off as best I can. This line, this song, her wild cries of “Empty!” and the lump in my throat forms and the tears they start at the corners of my eyes.
Everything I Said:
“It makes me lonely. It makes me very lonely. It makes me tired. It makes me very tired.”
These, all feelings of weariness that take hold when someone, when love has come and gone.
“Everything I said…oh, well I meant it. And inside my head, holding on.”
What am I holding on to, for exactly? I guess I have always had trouble letting go of friends, family, and of love. Probably the fear of being alone and lonely are ever on my mind.
And if I died tonight would you hold my hand? Would you understand?”
Her thoughts of gloomy, rejected sadness grip me every single time, as she sings,
“I’ll get over you.”
Her cries of sadness I was in awe of then and I know them, I know them now. If I were to have someone would they stay ? You can’t make anybody stay. I remember everything I say and I mean it all the way, but, in the end, who will stay?
The Icicle Melts:
First my sister would sing and then I would follow, lyrics of helpless images that the world shows us any day of the week. The image of an icicle was a strangely vivid one, to me.
“I should not have read the paper today cause a child, child child was taken away.”
I hear headlines and I feel for mothers. I wanted to share the love I felt with a child who needed someone. A mother, a wish, one I may never be, but that instinct burns strong in me.
“How could you hurt a child? Does this make you satisfied?” I don’t know what’s happening to people today, when a child he was taken away.”
I want to shake all those who hurt the children, would-be mothers and fathers, government officials, strangers, those who should love them. Children suffer everyday and I can not help. And sometimes it’s the mothers, with such strong bonds, that must see the suffering of their child, must go through losing that child.
“Nine months is too long.”
The image of those famous months where a child is nurtured into development. Such a short time really, but all the time it takes to build that bond between mother and child, all to be broken in nothing but a headline.
This swooping ballad pulled me along from the very first listen and still does to this day.
Someone is lost and can’t be found. As she repeats the words, the loss is felt over and over again..
“Disappointment. Oh, you shouldn’t have done, you couldn’t have done, you wouldn’t have done the things you did … .”
She shouts out, she decided. I don’t know why, what she has decided. To leave a particular situation? The mystery intrigues me and sweeps me along to a disappointing conclusion.
“We could have been happy. What a piteous thing, a hideous thing was tainted by the rest.”
More and more desperate emotions in this song that I can’t quite put my finger on, but that I can’t ignore. I share the same hope for the well-being of someone I once loved. You can see through the chaotic frenzy of emotion, to the part of you that wants them to be happy, wherever and however that may be.
But it won’t get any harder, and I hope you find your way again.”
There’s no guarantee that hard will not become harder. I must weather the disappointments that truly are. Again and again she repeats the word and I am forced to face my own disappointments head on, taking them for what they are worth.
I have them all the time. Ridiculous thoughts. They grow and they build. I hold on tight, onto the ride, through life. I move on and keep moving forward. These thoughts, threaten to swallow me up.
“You’re going to have to hold on,” she repeats, “to meeeeeeeee!!!”
Swiftly, she pulls me forward with the force of her words, but how do you escape your own thoughts?
Dreaming My Dreams:
The perfect song for marriage and a life together. Sure, I dreamed it would be mine someday too, the sentiment of this song that would run deep. To find that one other person to live out my dreams with. These words bringing me hope and faith that he exists, somewhere out there.
“All the things, you said to me today, changed my perspective in every way.”
What an uplifting thought, that one other person, the right person can totally change the perspective from which you look at life.
“It’s out there. It’s out there. It’s out there. If you want me I’ll be there.”
Guitar and violin here are the stuff of those dreams. the dream is hard to give up. I won’t. I will be there for someone, for the right one who wants me and what may be waiting for us both out there.
“Silenced by death in the grave.”
As a child, this poet I did not know, but who was important enough to become this song to this band. Talk of graves did not deter me, even as a young girl with talk of graves and misery.
“Had they but courage equal to desire.”
The darkness of it I was drawn to from the first time (poem, song, words, and lyrics), both courage and desire, in the darkness, being things I wondered at most already.
“And you sit here with me, on the Isle of Innisfree.”
Innisfree out there somewhere. Poetry and lyrics of which I wanted to explore and a place far in the mists of the mythical, but the Isle of Innisfree was out there somewhere, a real live place, secluded and remote.
“Why should I blame her, that she filled my days with misery?”
A time when this song played on a bus, on the way to this grave where I then stood and this poetry and the music I know oh so well now became oh so real.
“Holding on. that’s what I do since I met you. And it won’t be long. Would you notice if I left you? And it’s hard for some, ‘cause you’re not the one.”
The song with the two parts, the sorrow first, in the end of something.
“All night long, laid on my pillow. These things are wrong. I can’t sleep here!!!”
And then the beauty to be discovered underneath, with recognizing the problem and taking steps to make things better and beautiful again.
“I have decided to leave you forever. I have decided to start things from here. Thunder and lightening won’t change what I feel. And the daffodils look lovely today.”
The symbolic daffodils, “look lovely today.” The symbolic use of nature, thunder and lightening and pretty flowers, the disguises hidden under the surface perhaps?
“Ooh in your eyes I can see the disguise. Ooh in your eyes I can see the dismay. Has anyone seen lightening? Has anybody looked lovely? And the daffodils look lovely today.”
The song grows into an upbeat theme song for looking on the bright side of things and then ends, its final note on a downcast layering of a true lament.
No Need To Argue (Title Track):
A quiet end to a one-of-a-kind musical and lyrical experience.
“There’s no need to argue anymore. I gave all I could but it left me so sore.”
One lowly organ and her memories.
“And the thing that makes me mad was the one thing that I had. I knew, I knew, I’d lose you. YOU’ll always be special to me.”
Such memories, it feels like an intrusion, but perhaps a window onto these memories that can be sad and wistful at the same time, but that don’t have to be forever painful to recall.
“And I remember all the things we once shared, watching TV movies on the living room armchair. And they say it will work out fine. Was it all a waste of time? Cause I knew, I knew I’d lose you. You’ll always be special to me.”
Different memories, perhaps, but the same remembrance.
“There’s no need to argue anymore.”
And there’s a certain peace in this, in the quietude and solitude of this last track, the snapshots that flip, from one to the next, in the minds’ eye.
“Special,” she whispers faintly at the end.
Yes, “No Need To Argue” is certainly special to me.
Happy Twenty-year Anniversary to an album that changed my life and will surely last the test of time.