James Skelly & The Invaders - 'Love Undercover'

Coral frontman's new project. Expect the expected

Photo: Press
  • Release Date 03 Jun, 2013
  • Record Label Skeleton Key
6 / 10
James Skelly has never been a revolutionary. In his 15-plus years as frontman of The Coral, he’s made a career out of writing songs that sound like they were written decades ago. That’s not to say the Liverpool band didn’t have their own identity, but the 1960s permeated everything they released between 2002 and 2010. The singer’s debut under his own name is full of the same old-time chugs and jangles that defined his band. That’s not surprising, given The Invaders are made up of all members of The Coral – save former guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones – plus a few extra faces. ‘Love Undercover’ isn’t so much a solo record as a full-band album that revolves around Skelly’s songwriting, allowing him to breach the confines that led to The Coral abandoning their sixth album halfway through recording.

Opener ‘You’ve Got It All’ is a buoyant boost of soulful musical optimism that was co-penned by Paul Weller and it gets this album off to a soaring start that’s reminiscent of, but also removed from, the sounds of Skelly’s past. That quasi-familiarity, a staple of The Coral’s discography, permeates the other 10 songs here – whether the romantic slow dance innocence of ‘You And I’, the dramatic urgency of ‘I’m A Man’ (complete with Morricone-esque horns), the eerie but funky (yes, funky!) atmospherics of ‘Set You Free’, or the earnest balladeering of ‘Turn Away’, they all sound a bit like something else from some other time, whether way back when or simply from The Coral’s heyday. And while the gentle lilt of ‘Darkest Days’ and the repetitive choral refrain of ‘What A Day’ overstay their welcome, largely, this is an album of simple, wistful pop. Hardly revolutionary, but pleasantly nostalgic and enjoyable.

Mischa Pearlman

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