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The Coral


Release Date: 02.03
Record label: Deltasonic
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


Risky Business
by: terry sawyer

One of the sad side effects of any music trend is that because of music's inextricable entanglements with commerce, every good idea gets an action item in some corporate label board meeting and suddenly the airwaves are glutted with knock-off versions of this season's originality. In 2002, apparently people were starved for some good old-fangled rock n' roll. Bill Aicher has taken a good swing at psychoanalyzing the neuroses of the music industry and I have a few of my own diagnoses floating around. It's not surprising that a rugged, poor man's blues outfit like the White Stripes could take the public by storm given the sad state of pop music generally. They're anti-style. Unlike the dark empress of schlock, Jennifer Lopez, the White Stripes don't have their own clothing line, perfume, exploited celebrity sex life and the rest of that larger than life, in your face emptiness. I can't wait for her very own Pez dispenser which is likely to be a big, brown, thronged ass that plays "Jenny From the Block" when it discharges candy.

The other reason such back-to-basics guitar rumbling seemed so timely could perhaps be the general moroseness of much of the nu metal crowd who seem to be forever angsting about whatever vague injustices middle-class white kids feel. If I had a dog like the lead singer of Staind, I would have made like Old Yeller if you know what I mean. Then there's Eminem, whose prostitution of his tortured maternal entanglements seem like serial killer fodder with a clubbed-out beat. Most popular music just seemed either pointlessly happy or purposelessly sad, so it's no wonder that the brushfire underdogs of the year were the bands that just wanted to play their guitars, pick up a few hot girls and maybe get their drink on.

Now that bands paying obvious homage to the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, Led Zeppelin and the Kinks have worked their way into the mainstream, it's not surprising that a whole other set of bands will hit the streets mining different decades worth of record crates. The Coral are the latest widely heralded Brit phenomenon to find praise echoes stateside Let me make it clear, I'm not one to take the chum tossed in the water by the perpetual kingmakers at NME and Melody Maker. The British press seem to be a bunch of fickle bitches that use superlative adjectives more than most people use their lungs.

But even the Brits get it right on occasion. The Coral are a band that, although they won't be coming to a revolution near you, will definitely make for one of the more interesting debuts you're likely to hear this year. What's most striking on first run through, is the uncanny breadth of it all. If it weren't sitting in your lap, you'd think you'd come across some sort of compendium of sixties Brit invasion classics mixed in with a punchy duffle's worth of psychedlia circa the Age of Aquarius.

James Skelly's vocals on "Dreaming of You" are pure pop nirvana. His honey graveled gargle evokes everyone from Jim Morrison to Ian Brown in its balls and guts force helixed with a healthy dose of "come and blow me" yearn. "Simon Diamond" has all of early Pink Floyd's harmonizing coupled with that Syd Barrett, stories from the nut shack, bent to the lyrics. "I Remember When" takes a spaghetti western base and belts in a melodratic pistol whip of a chorus: "Because I'm better than him and I know where I've been". It's bound to leave you shopping for leather pants and practicing your scowl.

The Coral are a tricksy bunch. They seem awfully fond of the eternal fake out, allowing you to come close to guessing an influence before they clothesline you with some out of the blue musical incursion. "Shadows Fall" sounds like barbershop Broadway and frankly it's one of the tracks that is too far afield to take me along. "Goodbye" starts like a Zombie's single but then ends with intervals of thudding guitar thrash that would fit snugly on a metal record. The most bizarre track, "Skeleton Key" sounds like free form screamery careening for three minutes with no particular path or order.

Much of what makes this record compelling is the fact that, as a band, they seem absolutely impervious to taking huge risks. Like Captain Beefheart, The Coral seem to care little for the conventions of rock coolness. They are not to afraid to finish a song out in an extended polka jam session or inject a pop song with what sounds like a speed freak carousel. In the end, we're all better off for their temple trashing revivalism. 03-Feb-2003 10:56 PM