The Coral: The Coral

The funniest, most refreshing British debut in years

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9 / 10 Dunno how it happened. But thanks to a glitch in the time-space continuum, [a]The Coral[/a]'s brilliant, bizarre debut album arrives with us in mid-2002, fresh from the British beat boom of 1964. En route they've navigated their way via Country Joe & The Fish, Leadbelly, Motown, The Doors, Russian Cossack music, the (early) [a]The Coral[/a], The Action, Hawaiian instrumentals, WWF wrestling, Scouse luminaries The Stairs and Shack (former drummer Alan Wills, fittingly, is their manager) and, most probably, Captain Birdseye. It's so nautically-inclined you can almost smell the fishing nets. And all the work of six straggly youths from Hoylake, Merseyside - where else? - the eldest of whom, leather-lunged singer James Skelly, weighs in at a wizened 21. Too much.

In [a]The Coral[/a]'s company, the usual critical shorthand isn't so much made redundant as turned into hieroglyphics. Take 'Goodbye'. Stomping rhythm 'n' blues for two minutes, then suddenly the guitars flip into gonzo-punk overload and then [I]whoooosh[/I], it's turned into that dream sequence bit in 'Wayne's World 2' where Wayne meets Jim Morrison in the desert, before wriggling to a triumphant conclusion in four minutes flat.

Tunes so joyous you thought they only existed on dusty 45s in ancient pub jukeboxes appear regularly through the mist. 'Dreaming Of You' is two minutes and 19 seconds of yearning pop confusion ([I]'I still need you but/I don't want you'[/I]) to rival both [a]Madness[/a]' 'When I Dream' and [a]Frank Zappa[/a]' 'My Girl' (told you it was weird); 'Skeleton Key' is a deranged [a]Coral[/a] tribute that morphs into a gothic mariachi shuffle and finally, sublime, slippery Grace Jones disco and 'Shadows Fall', as you know, features the first ever marriage of ragtime, Egyptian reggae and barbershop on record. All orchestrated by Joe Meek (sombrero's off, incidentally, to Ian Broudie for an impeccable production).

But [a]The Coral[/a] display not the slightest trace of Gomez-ian worthiness, just an insane joy at being able to make an album that, as James has gone on record as saying, sounds 'timeless'. Only the Super Furriesand [a][/a] would dare show such disrespect for the rulebook, but even they, you suspect, would draw the line at skiffle-driven Gregorian sea shanties.

As a final 'Calendars & Clocks' suggests ([I]'Descendants of joy/ return the father to the boy'[/I]), [a]The Coral[/a] have ventured into rock's pre-history in their quest for fresh musical plunder and the outcome is the funniest, most

refreshing British debut in years.

Jason Fox

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