Having grown out of the swashbuckling psychedelia they audaciously paraded on their eponymous 2002 debut, erstwhile NME darling the Coral has fallen off the radar somewhat. Their Morricone-tinged sea shanties of old were born of a dizzying range of influences, making for records that were ceaselessly exciting if only for their madcap arrangements and hectic sonic marriages. Eight years and three-and-a-half albums later (including the mini-album Nightfreak & the Sons of Becker), following 2007’s fairly colorless Roots & Echoes, the Scouse quintet (sans lead guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones) give us their most mature and measured release to date: Butterfly House is a kaleidoscopic bout of dreamy folk-pop, finished with a reassuring air of calm and confidence.
If, as has been observed, one of the UK’s primary exports is pop music, Liverpool has certainly functioned as one of its main hubs of extraction. The self-evidence of the Beatles and their Scouse contemporaries being the vanguard of the ‘60s British Invasion. Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Pete Wylie and others forming Merseyside’s contribution to the new wave of the ‘70s.
The Coral were once the Heston Blumenthals of pop: they used the same ingredients as most other indie bands, but what they concocted was refreshingly strange. But with their 2007 album Roots and Echoes, they transformed into meat-and-potato cooks of the plainest kind. Butterfly House seems to stick to the same menu of grownup, classic folk-rock: earnest opening track More Than a Lover rakes over a severed relationship; Sandhills and Two Faces have sweet harmonies but sound as derivative as the High Llamas.
Back in 2003, when the Coral released its self-titled debut, leader James Skelly was the oldest member of the band at only 23. While that album displayed an impressive diversity of taste and influences for such a young outfit, the group clearly still had a lot of growing to do. Their frame of reference kept them anchored to the late 1960s, and as fine as its five albums might have been, they largely showcased a band running in place.
The Wirral band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves on their sixth LP. Rob Webb 2010 How many acts put out a collection of their Greatest Hits before slowly fading away into the annals of music history? It's something of a rhetorical question, of course, because said release has traditionally marked the creative death knell for a band. In recent times Supergrass and Oasis spring most immediately to mind as pertinent examples of this phenomena.