The Coral have built a catalogue that stands entirely on its own merits. Moving from the frenetic hype that dominated their debut to their current status as Mersey evergreens, what binds each album to the next is the often subtle power of their songwriting, tapping into intimate feelings while etching those emotions in a singular, immediately recognisable manner.
‘Coral Island’ is the band’s first album in three years – each member remains frenetically busy as a solo artist and collaborator – and it is perhaps their most ambitious to date. An extraordinary piece of world building, it’s a 24 track song cycle that never once wavers in quality, a true double album that is hued in beautifully pastoral late summer tones that verge on the Autumnal.
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The highlights are almost too many to mention. ‘Lover Undiscovered’ is a sublime tongue-twister; ‘Change Your Mind’ is blessed with quiet assurance, while ‘Mist On The River’ is dominated by a sense of uneasiness that goes beyond words.
A double album in the old-fashioned sense, ‘Coral Island’ will no doubt work particularly well on vinyl. The songs are fused together in natural groupings, while the break between placing the stylus on a fresh side of vinyl allows the narrative to seep into the unconscious, before the music begins once more.
‘Arcade Hallucinations’ is an unsettling, emphatically creative piece of off kilter psychedelia, it’s rattling charity shop percussive noises truly setting you on edge. The introspective pairing of ‘Autumn Has Come’ and ‘End Of The Pier’ pull at the heartstrings, while ‘Golden Age’ is a late-career high.
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Held together by narration by Ian Murray – James and Ian Skelly’s grandad – ‘Coral Island’ has a natural flow, one that holds your attention even at the record’s most sonically obtuse moments. And there are certainly moments of experimentation – as much as ‘Coral Island’ revels in plaintive guitar pop classicism, the band certainly enjoyed thinking outside the box. There are shades of Joe Meek’s experimentation at work throughout, with Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios being turned into a mania of pedals, horns, and other effects.
Closing with the beautiful pairing of ‘The Calico Girl’ and ‘The Last Entertainer’, ‘Coral Island’ is huge in scope and ambition, while also remaining staggeringly consistent. The bar is set high from the off, and they never fail to reach it. A lazy comparison: it’s as creative as ‘The White Album’ and as unified as ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’. A truly superb experience, it feels as though The Coral have painted their masterpiece – a one way ticket to ‘Coral Island’ is a truly an offer you can’t turn down.
Words: Robin Murray
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