Fuelled by their own fairground memories and fantasies, the band’s 10th album sees them soundtracking bustling seaside towns in the summer on the first half of the record before waltzing into the lonely lives of characters who inhabit the island during the cold winter on the second.
Ian Murray, 85, was recruited to perform as ‘The Great Muriarty’ on the record – a tour guide narrating in between songs about the stories behind Coral Island. You can view a clip of him narrating below.
“‘Coral Island’ is a world of end-of-the-pier day drinkers, kids who get where they shouldn’t, pre-rock and roll macabre jukebox pop and long nights of risky fun by the pitch black sea,” James Skelly told NME. “It seemed to call for a tour guide of some kind. We thought of a few ideas and then Ian said: ‘I’m gonna record grandad doing it and see what happens’. He just did it and it sounded really good. It sounded like The Ogdens, the way his monologues link the tunes together.”
Written by the band’s keyboardist Nick Power, the extensive narration sessions were recorded in his home on Merseyside before they were incorporated into ‘Coral Island’ as spoken interludes at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool.
“He’s a poetic guy from Runcorn and I wrote out the monologues that go in between the songs and recorded them with him,” Power recalled. “We went through all the people who we wanted to do the monologues and we just thought, ‘Let’s get [James and Ian’s] grandad to do it.”
Power continued: “He’s a natural story-teller. Whenever you see him, he’ll just go straight into a war-time story for about 45 minutes in the middle of the street, and you’ll be engrossed in it, so that’s why he’s a natural story teller.
“He did a great job! I had to buy him a meal afterwards and he drank me under the table, but it was worth it.”
Asked what the band’s future plans are for Murray, he added: “We’re not sure if he’s gonna tour yet but we might do, we might get him to read some of the excerpts in between songs.”
Last month, The Coral shared the first single from the record, ‘Faceless Angel’. “The song is about the celebration of mystery,” said Skelly. “The ‘Faceless Angel’ was sort of meant to be a ride. I got the idea from the Hellblazer [graphic novels]. It’s like a fallen angel and a pulp mystery, based on old comics.”
‘Coral Island’ is released on April 30, 2021.