The Coral – ‘Coral Island’ review: a romantic and reflective seaside waltz

This bold and nostalgic double album from the legendary Merseyside indie experimentalists features their most adventurous writing so far

The seaside can be a deeply meaningful place, stuffed with both joyous and melancholic memories. It can also be a great place to step back and reflect. The Coral have channeled these sentiments and more on their mammoth 10th studio effort ‘Coral Island’, an ambitious double-album that sees the Merseyside legends dig deep into their own romances and fantasies.

With over 20 years in the game, the band have found themselves looking to push the boundaries of their creativity, and there’s a hell of a lot going on in this adventure of a record. The first half strives to capture the thrilling bustle of a seaside destination’s summer months, before the second side shifts focus onto bleaker tourist-free winters.

There are so many layers woven under the surface in fact, that the band felt it called for a tour guide. So they drafted in the services of the Skelly brothers’ 85-year-old grandad who provides gentle monologues throughout under the moniker of storyteller ‘The Great Muriarty’.


It might seem a lot to take in, but from the get-go, you’re pulled into a strangely familiar world as his soft North-West accent invites: “On Coral Island, you can fall in love/All the piers and promenades on the boardwalks and bridleways of innocent dreams…” 

The music glues together such notions elegantly in ‘Lover Undiscovered’, a song soaked in sun-kissed melodies which embraces the warm glow of a perfect relationship. It’s evident the band are eager to let their songwriting shine and enjoy the playful thematic framework they’ve built. ‘Mist On The River’ evokes similar lovelorn feelings as a punchy and layered folk anthem complete with spritely pier-side keys.

Seaside imagery is dotted everywhere you look across the 24 tracks, whether that’s ‘Summertime’, where they sing about losing money at the penny arcades, or the striking ‘Strange Illusions’ which bids a dreamy farewell to ships upon the waves. Musically, there’s a vintage spirit and ‘Faceless Angel’ is one of many moments that throws back to the pre-Beatles era rock and roll of skiffle pioneer Lonnie Donegan. Elsewhere in the more melancholic second half ‘Old Photographs’ paints warm vignettes of yesteryear as they depict old scenes from the family album.

Sprinkled with the sound of distant seagulls and Hawaiian guitars for good measure, along with vivid storytelling, it’s a bold move for The Coral to come out with something so intricate at this stage of their career, even taking the time to pen an accompanying book. But immerse yourself in this heavily themed epic and you’ll be rewarded with a nostalgic trip that showcases some of their most adventurous writing to date.


The Coral

  • Release date: April 30
  • Label: Run On Records/Modern Sky UK


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