Release Date: Apr 23, 2013
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Since leaving the Coral in 2008, Bill Ryder-Jones seems to have made a speciality out of ignoring expectations, if not actively rebelling against them. The Coral, after all, were and are a perfectly adequate band of a specifically English type: a fun, vaguely-psychedelic guitar-rock band, drawing most of their inspiration from a grab-bag of ‘60s-era bands – there are prominent echoes of Love, the Doors, the Beach Boys, the Animals, Small Faces, and Syd-Barrett-era Pink Floyd all over their music. It’s a style that is perennially popular in the UK, even if (or because) in its modern form it can come across as more about pumping up the good times than saying anything of too much substance; bands as diverse as Gomez, Ocean Colour Scene, the Charlatans, Super Furry Animals, the Thrills, Dodgy and thousands of lesser lights have made healthy careers of various levels of critical and commercial success from mining this sort of territory.
After debuting in 2011 with the evocative If. . .
Who’d be a singer-songwriter? Why, only every bruised little snowflake capable of writing a song and singing it in a tremble-tongued croak, for whom every romantic encounter that doesn’t end in some kind of acoustic self-flagellation represents a wasted opportunity, whose subsequent expressions of melancholy feel as affected as an Instagram filter. Since leaving The Coral in 2008, Bill Ryder-Jones has gone out of his way to avoid becoming one of their number, principally by not bothering with the ‘singer’ part of the equation. His first two solo releases (‘A Leave Taking Soundtrack’ and ‘If…’, both from 2011) were orchestral, mostly instrumental works that emphasised his talent as an arranger.
The 2011 release of If…, an imaginary soundtrack for a film of an Italo Calvino novel, earned former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones raised eyebrows and plenty of praise for its ambitious orchestral soundscapes. The follow-up, however, finds him nailing his colours firmly to the singer-songwriter mast, the likes of the gorgeously hushed You're Getting Like Your Sister and opener Hanging Song owing more to Elliott Smith than Ennio Morricone. There's a disarming openness to the lyrics and a warmth to the arrangements that make this an album that rewards repeated listening.
You know those people who, when attending parties with a professional photographer present, always seem to evade the lens, and remain conspicuously absent from the ensuing album whether they want to be part of it or not? Well, that was Bill Ryder-Jones in The Coral. Always in the periphery of things, at the back of photoshoots, skulking underneath hoodies in promo videos, turning away from the audience at televised gigs, seemingly unseen by TV cameras even when in the midst of an impressive guitar solo, and eventually forced out of the band due to a stress-related illness. Which is what makes A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart such an intriguing prospect.
For a time in the early 2000s, British guitar rock experienced a flood of activity that buoyed the nation’s music press into believing that for the first time in ages they didn’t actually need the Gallagher brothers to sell magazines. In this environment, the Coral’s slapdash retread of 60s freakbeat and organ-driven psych rock garnered an enthusiastic reception from critics and festival-goers alike, with sloppy but catchy singles like “Dreaming of You” and “In the Morning” bottling just enough youthful exuberance from the six Liverpudlians to cover up their limited musicianship. But while more interesting bands from the period have fallen by the wayside over the years, the Coral trundle on, releasing dulled retreads of the same record every couple of years that chart reasonably well but show little motivation on the band's part to break out of their narrow, retro frame of reference.
Life can be pretty tough for the guitarist in a successful indie band who decides one day to go it alone and forge his own path. Just ask John Squire. Every Stone Roses is a Seahorses waiting to happen. Former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones made that jump soon after 2007’s ‘Roots And Echoes’.