March 13, 2003

Test Spin: The Coral

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Picture a small, insulated seaside town on the West Coast of England. Exciting? Maybe not so much. Nevertheless, for the six-man entourage that is The Coral, this quaint hometown served as a supple muse for their eponymous debut. More specifically, The Coral owe much of their inspiration to the sea, as if such a body of water does more than just provide the watery home for the organism after which they are named. From the minor key, salt-stained harmonies to the resurgent, tidal driven songs, The Coral would seem at home drifting across the dark waters of the Atlantic performing for whomever could catch a whisper of their music carried by the nautical crosswinds. Well, that, and because they sing about the ocean.

Lines like “We’ll set sail again, we’re heading for the Spanish Main,” on the intro track, “Spanish Main,” and “Drop the Anchor, Lift my heart/ from stern to stern, I’m torn apart/ Seek the Hull, leave the deck/ Silver moon silhouettes” on “Shadows Fall” evoke an image of a sea-faring band. The theme extends to The Coral’s music stylings as well — a montage of dual-guitar rock melodies, dub-syncopated beats, and folky-ballad harmonies. It seems the group has traversed across the briny deep to many a land of diverse musical categories. The storms they braved and the music they absorbed on this journey bred their unique, swashbuckling, peg-legged mutt of sound (if I haven’t overdone the whole ‘sea thing’ yet, here comes a shot to drive you over the edge). After garnering critical claim across the pond, especially by the land-lubbing music rag NME, The Coral have finally set sail for the States, and frankly I’m very interested to see how these salty dogs will be received (count ’em, four references).

With a style quite unlike any other, The Coral’s songs each feel like a paradox best described as an upbeat dirge. The songs sometimes slink along with organ drones and horn embellishments, yet the pace inexorably comes back with the rush of guitars and percussion. The only question remaining is whether The Coral have the “solid boned skeleton key” to open the doors to an American fanbase or if they will fall short, “ship wrecked on the rocks,” as forlorn sailors.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman