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The Coral

The Coral

When The Coral landed in the early ’00s, there was every danger of being dismissed as just one more guitar-based “The” band in a scene overrun with them. But the Wirral sextet were anything but typical. From James Skelly’s powerful, immediately recognisable vocals to the band’s ability to encourage Merseybeat, garage rock, jangle pop and sea shanties to all play nicely together, The Coral stood alone in all the best ways.

Their 2002 self-titled debut made all the above blatantly obvious. It was on shelves all of one day before it was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Skelley, brother Ian (drums), guitarists Bill Ryder-Jones and Lee Southall, Paul Duffy (bass) and Nick Power (keys) – all aged between 19 and 21 – embarked on an exhausting touring schedule, capitalising on the success of the album and singles Dreaming Of You and Pass It On.

The band teamed up with Lightning Seed Ian Broudie to record their 2003 follow-up, Magic And Medicine. Less of a manic detour through genres, the album instead demonstrated the band's unwavering aim for the sweet spot between Merseybeat and Nuggets-esque garage rock, like some wonderful gem uncovered in a time capsule from the late ’60s.

For a band that never seemed to stop touring, it was somewhat miraculous that The Coral released another album less than a year later. Nightfreak And The Sons Of Becker was again produced by Broudie, but darkened the vibe of Magic And Medicine with an ominously lo-fi approach.

The Coral stripped everything back to brass tacks for their fourth album, 2005’s The Invisible Invasion, produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Adrian Uttley. Under the duo’s careful guidance, the band did away with their more eccentric instrumentation choices and stuck to a simple-yet-effective guitar, bass and drums set-up.

Following the album’s release, Ryder-Jones decided to step back from the band, although he returned for the creation of the band’s next album, Roots & Echoes. Immediately afterwards, however, he departed the band for good, citing mental health issues.

The Coral continued their move towards a more straightforward sound with Butterfly House, given a pop sheen by noted producer John Leckie (Suede, Radiohead, The Stone Roses). The intention was to record with Leckie again for the follow-up, but the band felt they were running out of steam and instead went on hiatus.

Both Skelly brothers released solo records, while Ian also formed Serpent Power with ex-Zuton Paul Molloy. The band’s shelved 2006 album The Curse Of Love also finally saw the light of day around the same time. Collating the almost-finished record prompted James Skelly to reboot the band, albeit with Molloy and without Southall, and the stomping ’70s-flavoured Distance Inbetween arrived in 2016.

Rather than continue down this harder hitting path, the band changed tack for Move Through The Dawn, a breezy, melodic, jangling affair that called to mind Jeff Lynne’s pristine work with Tom Petty and The Travelling Wilburys.

That album’s gentle closer, After The Fair, served as an appropriately titled introduction to the themes of the band’s next album, a lovingly crafted concept album about a fictional seaside resort. The double album Coral Island contrasted the highs of the summer season with the dereliction and faded glory that follows, complete with spoken word interludes courtesy of the Skelly’s grandfather.

To support the album, The Coral confirmed a 2022 UK tour.

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