Unscripted excursion from Cosmic Scouse curators
After a year overflowing with surreality (Blaine in a box; the recent cringe
inducing burst of rugby ‘mania’; the couldn’t-make-it-up rise of The Darkness) it seems only
fitting that January should kick off with the unscheduled arrival of the third
album by [a]Coral[/a]. Sounding
like it was recorded in a leaky cowshed over seven days in North Wales (which, as
it turns out, it was), and so called thanks to the sprog-creating conquests of teutonic tennis
bore Boris, ‘Nightfreaks And The Sons Of Becker’ (great title!)
is a low-key classic from a group grappling with the demands of fame.
Bearing more than a passing similarity to the Super Furries tossed off genius
‘Mwng’ and clearly intended as a means of clearing the band’s creative tubes
prior to their third album ‘proper’, it also provides us with a fascinating insight into the
mindset of a band who’ve gone from BMX riding curio’s to the oddest paid-up residents of the top
ten for years.
Be warned: those expecting a repeat of the radio-friendly jangling of ‘Pass It
On’ should approach with caution. Because ‘Nightfreaks’ sees the
Hoylake six reject the commercial gloss which made ‘Magic And
Medicine’ feel, at times, like a fizzy glug of The Coral-lite, and return to
the darker grog of their debut.
Paranoia stalks every chorus. ‘I Forgot My Name’ is a bad-tempered rockabilly
rumble which sparks to a close in a burble of TV static; a fearsome ‘Migraine’
([I]”I go to parties and I just freeze/ I think I’m infected with a social disease”[/I]) takes the
rattle of ‘Gypsy Market Blues’ and hardwires it to a gnarled terrace chorus and
the priceless ‘Auntie’s Operation’ ([I]”She’ll want your sympathy/ She’ll
never let you be/Sniffing at your food/ Before it’s even chewed”[/I]) manages to make light of
domestic strife and sum up the parlous state of the NHS all in two minutes and
23 seconds. The contrary spirits of everyone from The Kinks to The Specials must be looking down
from the heavens approvingly.
Pop songs emerge from the murk. ‘Sorrow Or The Song’ is a gloomy, funkier,
cousin of ‘Don’t Think You’re The First’, ‘Venom Cable’ reprises the limescaled
disco shuffle of the outro to ‘Skeleton Key’ and ‘Song Of The
Corn’ manages to include the lines [I]”I heard a commotion one late afternoon/ Someone
was singing a funeral tune”[/I] (Bill McCai’s, perhaps?) and still sound like
Radio Two will playlist it.
Things inevitably go off the boil. A funny-at-the-time ‘Why Does The Sun Come
Up’ is a stoned interlude inspired by their U.S tour habit of recording
random snippets of cable TV, and ‘Precious Eyes’ and a final ‘Lovers
Paradise’ should have been left to scrap it out on a B-sides collection. No
‘Nightfreaks’ is here to provide us with a gauge on where The Coral are two years into an
all-conquering career. If James Skelly’s lyrics are growing increasingly bleak as
time passes, then the band’s musical progress matches him stride for stride. Throughout
Paul Duffy’s bass buzzes with cocksure intent, whilst Bill
Ryder-Jones and Lee Southall’s guitars twang and thrash without ever
sounding like we’re eavesdropping on some sort of unscripted muso horrorshow. When they all
combine to launch into a splurge of chronic-coated g-funk on ‘Grey Harpoon’ it’s
so spot-on you half expect the Snoop of ‘Doggy Style’ to show
up for a duet on the joys of life on the Wirral frontline.
In short, the threat of implosion or creative exhaustion which seem to haunt their peers seem
notable only by their absence. Deltasonic, you’d imagine, must be delighted. With the weirdness
purged, the scene seems set for The
Coral to produce future pop triumphs clearly still formulating in the recesses of
James Skelly’s mind.
For the rest of us, ‘Nightfreaks’ serves as a reminder that in a climate where
pop celebrity is based on constantly repeating the winning formula, The Coral remain defiantly off
message. Striving to be more than just grist to the CD:UK mill, they’re fighting
to retain their integrity and poke fun at the process along the way.
It’s the difficult third album alright, but only because they wanted it to be.
Get ‘Nightfreak And The Sons Of Becker’ at the NME Shop