Retrospective: Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
I lived my teenage years on the north east coast of Ireland in the mid-00s, when bomb scares were met with the same bemusement as the school bell but a slight from the boy across the road could define the worst day of my life. Like any mopey teenager stunted by small-townisms and yearning for greater things – London, New York, even Belfast 20 miles up the motorway – voices from far away offered a spark.
During these years Patti Smith was a confidante, I drove my mum mad with The Cure, and Babes in Toyland set the groundwork for unbridled teen rage. Experiencing these cultures through LastFM scrobble-lurking and a two-sided portable CD player, it was The Cranberries’ debut, Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? that brought me back home. The fluorescent spirit that shone through Seattle riot grrrl or English dream pop had a wild, Irish strain.
The Limerick band emerged from a line-up switch, a name change, and a label bidding war, with their debut album in 1993. It’s a testament to youthful love and loss, with an unrelenting toughness even in vulnerable moments, a raw beauty behind its bared teeth. Though I was still a baby when they were in heavy rotation on early 90s MTV, the teenage girl angst that’s so intrinsic to its narrative feels enduring. While I had been sharing it on MSN, plenty of girls, Irish or otherwise, have made cassette tapes and pasted The Cranberries’ lyrics to bedroom walls across these 25 years.
The album opens with the haunting I Still Do, introducing the misty melancholia with pulsating urgency. Dolores O’Riordan wrote Linger, the album’s second single, about her first kiss and a soldier she fell for. Not Sorry is tear-stung rebellion, while skin-prickling insecurities are peeled back in Pretty. Produced by The Smiths, Blur and Psychedelic Furs collaborator Stephen Street, album’s luscious, jangly pop is driven by Noel Hogan’s exquisite guitar and Fergal Lawler’s pounding percussion, which soars into the painful peaks of Wanted and mellows out in ghostly hollows of Put Me Down.
Dolores’ Sean Nos singing style unleashed the Celtic on contemporary pop. On the album’s lead single Dreams, the ‘R’s are hugged close and ‘T’s are stomped. There was something inspiring about being so unapologetically Irish-sounding, particularly at a time when home was ravaged by conflict. “Oh, I, thought the world of you,” the layered voices reach out in Linger, catching twinkling rhymes and rhythms no other diction could achieve. Whether rallying crowds at Woodstock or hushing a late night American talk show, it was always done with a Limerick accent.
The powerful, moody neo-noir music videos that accompanied Everybody Else Is Doing It… spawned a legion of Doc Marten-booted young Irish women with pixie hair and buzzcuts – youth keen to denounce the suffocating Irish social systems facilitated by the Catholic church and Troubles. The Cranberries’ first album has proved the perfect soundtrack to teen movies and films, capturing infatuations and anxieties. The savage How plays out as Liv Tyler’s character rails off after a disastrous encounter with her famous crush in Empire Records. My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase blasts Dreams’ from her bedroom stereo, illustrating teen-ennui, awkward romance, and the lust for liberation.
With this record came big emotions, and even bigger plans for the band. Linger and Dreams barely touched the UK charts, but America’s enthusiastic embrace of The Cranberries and the singles’ British re-release gave their first record the push it needed, eventually bagging around eight million sales. And while their second album No Need to Argue redirected their anger and emotion towards a more political consciousness, it is on Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? that the ballads bite, as rage and vulnerability meet within an Irish lilt.