n article in UK style bible The Face recently revealed that teenage girls in Liverpool have taken to walking round the city centre dressed in their pyjamas. Some of them have even been dolling themselves up in their Winnie-the-Pooh flannel togs to go out to nightclubs. It’s that kind of city. But The Coral aren’t from Liverpool, they’re from The Wirral. Which is even fucking madder.
Their pockets full of Frank Zappa’s hooks and Don Van Vliet’s voice, shoplifting Sly Stone’s funk and Lee Mavers’ bendy Mersey tunes, mad kids with talent and no parents around to say “NO! You can’t do that! It’s fucking mad!” and so they carry on, scissors and glue in hand, grins on faces, writing on your fucking walls in multi-coloured crayon.
The Coral are the anti-Gomez, likewise rummaging in ancient record collections for diamonds they can pinch. But while Gomez sat around in their student digs getting high and wanking blues licks on each others’ faces for 6 minutes at a time, The Coral are joyously caught up in their love of the gonzo three-minute pop song, aware that hooks and shouting and unexpected sudden turns and dashes down mad alleys are both more instantaneous and more satisfying than the self-satisfied muso wank-wank that comes so easily to other guitar-toting retro-heads.
A scouse Primal Scream on a skiffle tip, Russian dancing in a sailors’ bar facing onto Liverpool docks, The Coral clearly don’t care what anyone thinks. "Shadows Fall" is an organ driven blues riff stuck on top of a barbershop sextet sea shanty, with a middle eight stolen from Ali Babar and his 40 thieves. "Spanish Main" has them shouting about the Armada or something for a couple of minutes, and "Dreaming Of You" has trombone honks that Madness would be proud of. Organs career, guitars skronk, drums get kicked out of moving vehicles and the rulebook gets ripped up and flushed down the toilets.
At a time when every other band in Liverpool sounds like Cast and Shack and is unable to focus on any sort of musical history outside of The Beatles and Gerry And The Pacemakers, The Coral are total fresh air, a hit of pure oxygen above a stagnating Mersey. Liverpool’s always been a weird city, more Irish than English, more crazed than sane, a melting pot for cultures and races to rival just about anywhere in the world, and The Coral reflect this rich, slightly tapped-in-the-head social and cultural tapestry better than just about anyone else to have picked up a guitar in Liverpool since The Teardrop Explodes. "Skeleton Key" mixes Zappa with some weird Arabian riff, James Skelly, singer and band elder statesman (at 21!) bellowing “solid gold skeleton key / opens the most intricate lock / [something something] / [something something] / I AM SHIPWRECKED ON THE ROCKS!” and it’s like Hunter S Thompson conducting the Bonzo Dog Band through his weirdest fucking daydream.
Part Banana Splits, part The Wicker Man, part genius, The Coral may just have produced the most intriguing, tuneful, humorous and enjoyable debut album of the year, and then some.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01