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Starsailing pyschedelic popsters...

First published: 30 June 2001

The best new band in the country: it’s one sentence we never tire of writing. The latest best new band in the country is Coral. Their ‘Shadows Fall’ EP is the most exotic, entrancing debut in yonks.

Coral may look like joyriders, but they’re romantic dreamers in the grand tradition of fellow Scousers Echo And The Bunnymen or Shack. If La’s were psychedelic pirates they’d sound like Coral. If you think that’s unusual, ask four of the six bandmates what inspired them to form five years ago at school. They list hundreds of bands, from Beach Boys to Lee Perry ‘Scratch’ to Destiny’s Child, before singer and guitarist James Skelly says this, “As much as music, though, it’s books, scenery.”

“Where we live is inspiring,” agrees organist Nick Power, aged 18, describing the seaside towns of Hoylake and West Kirby. “The silhouette of the islands against the sea at sunset…”

“‘Origin Of Species’,” says James, 20, warming to the theme. “Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway. Walt Disney. Spiderman. ‘Citizen Kane’…”

And then they’re off talking excitedly at once.

Bill Ryder-Jones, 17, guitar/trumpet: “‘Treasure Island’.”

Paul: “‘Peter Pan’.”

Ian Skelly, 18, drums: “‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’.”

James: “Books about the American Civil War, Bob Dylan, the open sea…”

The room goes quiet for a nanosecond

“Yeah,” says Bill, with perfect timing, “but it was Oasis, really.”

The distillation of all that forms ‘Shadows Fall’, a beautifully harmonised fable about a ghost port and the best sea shanty since Doors’ ‘Crystal Ship’. It’s backed by the spooky tale of ‘The Ballad Of Simon Diamond’ and the mournful Beach Boys-ish ‘Sparrow’s Song’.

There’ll be gigs once they find a soundman who “won’t make us sound like knobheads” and they strap on their instruments to play NME their quite brilliant second single, ‘Calendars And Clocks’.

But that’s as close to earthy, business matters as they come.

“The best plan,” says James with a wink, “is to have no plan.”

Ted Kessler