Still relatively young (I don’t think any of them have even reached forty yet!), but with a longevity and body of work more befitting of a band of considerably more advanced years, these boys from Hoylake have always seemed strangely out of step with the world around them. Far too singular to be lumped in with any record company or music press invented scene, the band have always toed the line between old and new, sometimes uncomfortably so.
Tonight’s gig is a case in point. I would be hesitant to describe this as a homecoming show, at risk of attracting the ire of those residents of Liverpool who consider anyone north of Kirkdale a ‘wool’, but the packed out Olympia is a sure sign that the chaps are still clearly adored in their native Merseyside. The new album ‘Distance Inbetween’ is only really touched upon, with the majority of the set comprised of older fan favourites, a heady mixture of singles and album tracks.
Opening with recent single ‘Chasing the Tail of a Dream’, you’re struck by how incredibly slick and tight the band sound these days. Having seen them a good few times over the years, I can honestly say I’ve never heard them sounding so fucking….. spotless before! If you weren’t gazing at the stage you’d swear you were listening to a CD. In lesser hands this could come across as uncaring (or workmanlike, to be pedantic), but this is The Coral, a band who never do things by halves. Not if they can help it.
Another thing that stands out tonight is the diversity of the band’s music. Singalong anthems like ‘Jacqueline’, ‘Pass It On’ and ‘Dreaming Of You’ rub shoulders with the swashbuckling Beefheartian punk nightmare of ‘Skeleton Key’, the certifiable Brown Acid paranoia of ‘Arabian Sand’ and the tortured psych stomp of ‘I Remember When.’ At the other end of the spectrum, the Augustus Pablo meets A Fistful Of Dollars carnival waltz of ‘Don’t Think You’re The First’ is surely one of the most surreal top ten singles the UK has ever seen, while album track ‘Simon Diamond’, a tale of a man who changes “from human to plant form” invokes the sordid spirit of 1974 British horror film The Mutations, a bizarre tale of a mad Scientist’s experiments with humans and plants. Not sure if the track’s directly inspired by this shameless piece of Sci-Fi sleaze, which stars Donald Pleasance, Tom Baker and one or two real life circus ‘freaks’, but it’s certainly the only song I’ve ever heard that brings this demented flick to mind. Good or bad, it’s confirmation that The Coral are a band you couldn’t pigeonhole if you tried.
Certainly one of the UK’s most perplexing bands, The Coral occupy a queasy space between past, present and future; a categorical oddity composed of chaos, craftsmanship, poetry, pop, psych, stuff and nonsense. They could easily be as big as Oasis or Coldplay, it’s just the twisted shit in their brains coming out to the fore on Album Day getting in the way, inviting them out for a bevvy when worldwide domination comes a callin’. For now, they’ll have to settle with ‘Big Time Cult Heroes’ status, give them a few more years though and anything could happen. This is The Coral, y’see. They don’t do things by halves.