Anyone remotely interested in songwriting of the Sixties ilk in the twenty-first century should be well aware of The Coral. Primary singer/songwriter James Skelly is of a rare breed, up there with Noel Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft in terms of keeping the flag of The Beatles and The Byrds flying in the modern era.
The Coral first began to get recognised for their quality in the early Nineties after signing with the late, great Alan Will’s label Deltasonic. Their self-titled debut album and Magic and Medicine spawned some of the catchiest singles of the decade in 'Dreaming Of You' and 'Pass It On'.
In addition to their renown for writing a great pop tune came a stunning live reputation. Their experimental performances would raise the roof at any venue you were lucky enough to find them in. Sweat would literally be dripping from the ceiling as they’d go on extended jams offering much more than just a bog standard re-hash of what they put out on record.
Their least polished and wildly experimental Captain Beefheart-esque album, Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker captures this energy fairly accurately, especially with the loud monotonous drums on the songs, 'Medicine', 'I Forgot My Name' ,and 'Auntie's Operation' . Some of their more well-crafted albums implied a level of convention that didn't characterise their visceral shows.
Distance Inbetween similarly captures this propulsive spirit of the band live but brings it to a whole new level. It's The Coral's Krautrock moment and it works incredibly well for them. It's a strong departure from the more sedate haunted seaside sounds of their last album, Butterfly House. It’s the sound of a band revitalised after a five-year-hiatus, ready to conquer the world once again.
The first standout, 'Chasing the Tail of the Dream', has a tribal floor tom rhythm that would convert any Coral skeptic. It's got a universally appealing groove and you’d need to check your pulse if you’re not moved by it. Despite this appropriation of Krautrock in the rhythm section, the pop element can't ever escape The Coral. Skelly's melodic vocal hooks are a benefit that results the album keeping up with the band's tradition of being able to produce a handful of songs on each album that rank up there with their greatest hits.
One of these is their single, 'Miss Fortune'. It combines everything that this album does well: soaring harmonies, repetitive drum beats, and complex psych influenced textures that form a wildly imaginative backdrop to his beautiful written lyrics.
Elsewhere, 'Million Eyes', has a long instrumental outro with an improvised feel that conveys the closeness of a rhythm section who've been playing together for 20 years. Whilst, 'She Runs the River' opens like a Pink Floyd song and proves the multi tracking on the vocals pays off dividends.
It's moments like this that really emphasise how great a producer Skelly has become. During his hiatus from the Coral he’s been producing bands for his label Skeleton Key Records, and he’s co-produced Distance Inbetween with Rich Turvey and has added some really fascinating flourishes.
The temptation to have put out this album soon after Butterfly House would have been strong. Especially to continue on the momentum that bands need to crack the world’s biggest stages. But the decision to wait five years, gain experiences outside of the band, and discover a sound that works best for them to move forward as an exciting live band has been a fruitful one. Their golden hour may be just on the horizon.
7Cai Trefor's Score