The Cranberries, portrait, Woodstock, Saugerties, NY, 13th August 1994. (Photo by Niels van ... [+] Iperen/Getty Images)
The Irish alt-rock band the Cranberries broke through the mainstream in 1993 with their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, which yielded two big hit songs in Linger and Dreams. So it was only natural that expectations were riding high on the follow-up for the quartet of singer Dolores O'Riordan, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler. For a still relatively new band on the scene, the second album could prolong or break a career. But the Cranberries fortunately avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx with No Need to Argue, which not only was another success but even surpassed the sales of its predecessor.
No Need to Argue's popularity can be attributed to its powerful first single Zombie, written by O'Riordan and inspired by the deaths of two children in the 1993 IRA-linked bombing attacks in Warrington, Cheshire, England. Up to that point, Zombie '' was the most heaviest-sounding song the Cranberries had ever released in keeping with the grunge rock scene of the times. In an interview with Vox magazine in 1994, Riordan talked about writing that song: "I remember seeing one of the mothers on television, just devastated. I felt so sad for her, that she'd carried him for nine months, been through all the morning sickness, the whole thing andsome airhead who thought he was making a point, did that."
The cover of the Cranberries' 1994 'No Need to Argue.'
Just over 25 years later, Zombie remains perhaps the band's signature song and accompanying video has accumulated an astounding 1 billion views on YouTube. In addition to Zombie, No Need to Argue contains such other popular Cranberries songs such as the lovely Ode to My Family; the uptempo rockers Ridiculous Thoughts and I Can't Be With You; and the wistful Empty. Now the album has recently been reissued as an expanded edition that not only features the original tracklist but a trove of rarities, demos and live recordingsamong the previously unreleased tracks are Yesterday's Gone, recorded from the band's MTV Unplugged appearance; and the folkish Serious, which had existed only as a bootleg.
In retrospect, No Need to Argue was a crucial album for the Cranberries, as it further solidified their popularity during the mid 90s. On the occasion of the reissues recent release, I spoke with surviving Cranberries members Noel Hogan and Fergal Lawler about recording No Need to Argue; their initial impressions of Zombie at the time of its creation; and life after the passing of O'Riordan at the age of 46 in 2018which makes revisiting the music on No Need to Argue all the more poignant and special.
What goes through your mind today about No Need to Argue more than 25 years after it was recorded and released?
Noel Hogan: It's bizarre to think it's so long...but it just flies by so quickly. Sometimes it feels like 25 years, and then other times it feels like two years. I guess it just makes you realize how young we were when we did that.
Fergal Lawler: It really is crazy. Sometimes I think back, it seems like only yesterday when we recorded it. Other days it feels like it was 25 years ago.
There is plenty of bonus material from that period on the new reissue. Did going through the archival stuff bring back memories?
Hogan: There's so much stuff you forget that you've done. It all kind of blurs into one thing. Actually even the album itself, you don't tend to listen to it as time goes by...it's not something you really do. It was kind of interesting to sit down at home and hear it from start to finish.
Lawler: It was kind of sweet and sad at the same time, because you're kind of remembering those good times. We had a great and enjoyable time recording that album. And then you get a bit sad, obviously thinking about Dolores and she's not here.
You were riding high off of the success of the first album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? Did you feel any sort of pressure in making the second album with producer Stephen Street?
Hogan: We kept writing from when we did the first album. We were still on tour and we didn't take any time off. [Everybody Else] had been out about a year before it took off, because it was released in Europe and it didn't do well. Then suddenly in the States it blew up and then the rest of the world followed. So we had long written the second album at that point, and it didn't change for us. I think we were tighter going in because we had toured so much and playing at the timethat we went in with Stephen and certainly felt more confident about it. We had matured as musicians. I think we've felt pretty good about it going in from the top.
Lawler: Everyone was kind of going: You have to follow up your first album, it has to be really good. We didn't really feel that because we were young and enjoying ourselves and the songs were flowing. We just didn't feel that pressure.
Were you aiming for a different sound with No Need to Argue compared to the first album, because Zombie presented the band in a heavier-sounding light?
Hogan: I think we were playing better because we had been touring so much, and we got a lot heavier live from just experience. It was kind of a natural progression. I think each album moves a little bit forward. You get to a point in your life when you write in a certain way, and then you move on and you write another way. We've always just gone with how we felt at that time, and to ignore your surroundings, because you can jump into what is trendy. But the problem is in a year's time, that isn't trendy and people have moved on. So being true to yourself is what we always try to do.
Lawler: When you play live a lot anyway, the adrenaline is up, the songs come across more energetic and loud. Maybe there's an element of more power when you're playing live. We had toured for two years non-stop pretty much before we recorded No Need to Argue. We had been used to hearing ourselves loud on stage and everything, so maybe that's a natural thing that happened then.
I always had the assumption that the entire album was done in Ireland or in the U.K., but the demos for the album were recorded at the Magic Shop recording studio in New York City. How did that happen?
Hogan: We just had no time to record anywhere. We were so busy. We had a week off in New York, and Stephen was free that week. So he flew in. The first album was doing very well, and it was out of the way at that point. So we felt: Let's get the demos done. It was great to kind of get away from the live thingin the middle of a tourto get into a studio for a few days. You're super tired at that point because it's you've been playing for months. Then Stephen flew back to the U.K., and we just kept touring again, and that's how it came about.
Lawler: I think it was five or six songs we did in there, and it was a great session because we were really tight and we've been touring a lot. We were in the middle of a tour and these songs were fresh and everyone's excited about them. We were really on a roll. It was such a relaxing time, really. There was no stress.
What was your initial impression of Zombie when Dolores first presented it to the band?
Hogan: It was a change in direction sound-wise, obviously a lot harder than anything we've done. Dolores brought it in and she was playing it on an acoustic. We started doing what we'd normally do and made it that kind of sweet indie pop thing. It was one of the times where she said: Look, that's not gonna really work with this. it's a kind of I'm pissed off song, I'm angry about this, and I think the music should reflect it. So she wanted me to play harder on the guitar, and certainly on the drums as well. When we did Zombie, we realized that you can actually be heavy and still have melody. It really was a start in a change of attitudenot just different styles of songs with us, but also even how we played live.
Lawler: We thought it was a great song. Initially it was actually called In Your Head, because I remember seeing a setlist and it was written down In Your Head. So it was called that for a while before Dolores changed it to Zombie. But yeah, we knew there was something special about it. It was kind of something different. And when she was saying, Make it heavier, that was great to hear because normally everyone's saying Turn it down, turn it down. And as a drummer you can't turn it down, like you put towels on your drum kit to maybe try to muffle it. So when she was kind of saying Hit hard, plenty of power, it was like, Great, okay, I can do that. (laughs)
Is it true that your management and the record company were reluctant to release Zombie as No Need to Argue's first single?
Hogan: I think the record company thought maybe as a second single or something like that. We really liked the song. We had been playing it in the set for a long time and it went down really well. It was a different song instead of coming out with another Linger or Dreams, which were the two big hits we had at that time. The management were kind of easier about it, but the record company was reluctant. They figured, It's gonna come out anyway, and what's the point of a big fight? It worked at the end of the day.
Lawler: We pushed our arguments in saying: Look, we've been playing the song live for about a year. People have never heard it on a CD or anything. But yet, they go apes***t in the audience. They love this on a first hearing, so that's a sign that it's a catchy song. People like it. It has to work.
Looking back, were you surprised at how successful that album turned out to become?
Hogan: It's kind of hard to realize when you're in the middle of it, how big the whole thing is. It almost seems like it's happened to another band, because a couple of years earlier we were playing empty rooms. Nobody wanted to know about us. There's a point where you think Pack it in or We're gonna get dropped. Then suddenly you're one the biggest in the world at that time. So it is crazy. It's been unbelievable. We've been very lucky,
Lawler: I remember the first gigs we played after finishing the album. We did a run-up along the east coast of the U.S., because we were playing Woodstock '94. So I think we started in Atlanta and did Philly and New York's Central Park SummerStage. I remember that run particularly, and it was great. The gigs were getting bigger and bigger. And then we played Woodstock, and everyone knew the songs.
A quarter of a century later, No Need to Argue doesn't sound dated compared to other albums from the '90s.
Hogan: When I listen back to the remastered version, I was surprised at how well it held up. I do think it has aged well. I would give credit to Stephen as well for the productionit was done very well. It was the combination of the four of us and him. We all knew how to get the best out of each other.
Lawler: It's strange, isn't? We found that as well listening back. Before it got remastered, you go: Gee, I wonder if it's gonna sound a bit dated? But no, it didn't. We were very surprised.
It'll be almost three years since the passing of Dolores. It's hard to listen to No Need to Argue without thinking of her. Has her absence settled in for you personally?
Hogan: Bit by bit. There's a lot of reminders. Time heals things, as they say. It's a bit surreal because we were basically the same age. If we were 80 or 90, and you got a call that they passed away, you'd go: Yeah, that's terrible. But when you're talking to someone one morning and then the following morning you get the call, and you're only in your 40s, it's such a shock to take.
I guess the way to look at it is we have all this music and this legacy that she left behind, and that's a great thing. We did the last Cranberries album [2019's In the End] after she passed away using her vocals. The fact that we even had thatit was a nice gift for us and for the fans to have
Lawler: She was such a big part of our lives. She was almost like a sister, spent so long working together and touring togetherwe were like a family. There isn't a day goes by that she doesn't pop into my head. Some days I still can't believe she's gone because she was so young. I don't think you ever really get used to it. I can't put it into words. It's a massive, emotional experience.
The remaining members of the Cranberries have decided to not officially continue as a group following the release of In the End. What's next in terms of archival projects?
Hogan: We started a documentaryit must be five years ago at this point. It was meant to be the chronicle of where the band started up to the first album and the success of that. That was the original thing. We did a bunch of band interviews, and this was before Dolores passed away. So we kind of revisited the thing afterwards in the past year or so and decided that maybe we'll expand on that and make that the full 30 years, the life cycle of the band. So I think once the dust settles with COVID, we'll focus more on that, because it's something that has not been done in any way before.
Are you surprised that the music still gets airplay 30 years after the band's formation?
Lawler: I know, it's bizarre. I can't fathom it, because a lot of young people have discovered the Cranberries now. It's something you obviously see at gigs: you see younger generations coming in because their parents would be playing it, and then they hear it in the car or whatever, and they come along to the gig. But now I don't know how they find itmaybe on YouTube or whatever. It's hard to know how they hear it or how they pick up on it. It's great, it's amazing. I'm shocked to see Zombie got a billion views on YouTube. It's insane when you think about that. (laughs) It's good that it still resonates.
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