The Coral : London WC1 ULU

Ultimately, it's time for you to decide what you prefer

With the current glut of guitar acts threatening to reach epidemic proportions, it’s hardly surprising that quality control has gone completely out of the window. After the initial burst of brilliance (Strokes, Hives, Stripes, Vines, BRMC), we’re now in danger of succumbing to the totally indifferent. The number of horrendously mediocre US garage rock bands being touted as the New Big Thing is growing by the day, and pretty soon there surely won’t be anyone left in Britain who hasn’t heard a record by The Von Bondies. It’s a terrifying thought.

What makes this even more incomprehensible is that on our own doorstep we have groups like The Coral – bands so inspired and refreshing that they leave all the US pub rockers for dead. In a little under 12 months, they’ve constructed their own uniquely mythic universe – a world of surreal twists and romantic adventure soundtracked by a dazzling creativity that sucks influences from just about every strain of music ever invented.

The only debit so far is that their cautious approach (none of their singles have been chart eligible, for instance) has meant that they haven’t made the big breakthrough yet. With a new single due in July and a (fantastic) debut album just completed, that situation should change soon. This NME 5.0 tour – originally meant to be a joint headline affair with The Music (who pulled out earlier with “throat problems”) – is the first step down that road and the band seem to realise it.

After the initial shock of seeing them jacknife from prog to dub to acoustic ballad in the first three and a half minutes, they quickly settle into their tight groove. What quickly becomes apparent is that for all their weird time signatures and semi-prog noise assaults (‘Skeleton Key’ sounds like someone blowing up a house of Frank Zappa records), there’s an accessible heart to almost everything they do, whether it’s the melodic zigzags of ‘Waiting For The Heartaches’ or the crunching garage of ‘Badman’.

Part of the reason for this is that The Coral have absorbed so much of Liverpool’s musical heritage. They often get compared to Echo And The Bunnymen – from whom they get much of their romanticism – but after a couple of songs tonight they crash into a superb version of The Teardrop Explodes’ ‘Reward’ and you can instantly see the link between the two. They both share the same psychedelic pop sensibility – and the choice seems inspired rather than trite or obvious. From here, they spin off into first single ‘Shadows Fall’ and a wonderfully warped ‘Clocks And Calenders’. They finish with an extended version of forthcoming single ‘Goodbye’ complete with rambling Doors-style interlude and a heavily fuzzed conclusion.

The Coral might share some of the same influences as their American contemporaries, but their genius lies in what they choose to do with them. Rather than simply rehashing a trusted formula, they’re constantly searching for new ways of twisting and turning their songs into something fresh and original. Ultimately, it’s time for you to decide what you prefer. The Coral should make it an easy choice.

James Oldham