In an unlikely sextet of British natives, 1960s-era folk has
found a new torch bearer. In 2002, The Coral took the U.K. music
charts by surprise and scored a hit with their self-titled debut.
Its eclectic blend of folk, blues, ska and pop was a breath of
fresh air in a scene that so often falls into conformity. The
group’s eccentric clothing and quirky lyrics helped to
solidify their “independent” status while their album
sales skyrocketed. Their youthful energy was the key element in
their debut’s songs. With Magic and Medicine, the band
has discovered a slightly darker sound that displays both their
musical prowess and lyrical wit.
The album begins with the church organ drone of “In the
Forest,” conjuring memories of The Doors and establishing the
theme of the album: Replicating ’60s folk and psych-rock.
Bands are often attacked for sounding too much like their
predecessors, but The Coral’s songwriting talents deem them
unworthy of the overly used “imitator” label.
“Don’t Think You’re the First” kicks out
of the stereo, sounding a lot like the theme from “The Good,
the Bad, and the Ugly.” The highlight of the song is the
recurring call and answer between a flute and lead singer James
Skelly. “Liezah” is the band’s finest moment as
it combines musical restraint with a beautiful melody. An acoustic
guitar plucks away as Skelly’s smooth vocals carry out the
repeating line, “Liezah / Can’t despise her /
She’ll change your look / She’ll have you
Guitarists Bill Ryder-Jones and Lee Southall have distinctive
tones that are stamped upon all of The Coral’s songs. Snappy,
vintage sounds can be found emanating from the entire album and the
guitarists reward the observant listener with intricate fills. The
band falters with “Talkin’ Gypsy Market Blues,” a
poor attempt at capturing the Rolling Stones’s rock
‘n’ roll blues style. “Eskimo Lament” is a
somber, ’60s folk-rock number that would make Arthur Lee
proud. The single, “Pass it On,” provides a sweet
melody that is the only bright spot in the album’s final four
The Coral have musical talents that are well beyond their years,
and it shows in this album. There are some really wonderful moments
here, but there are not enough of them to make this a great album.
The potential that can be heard in these songs seems unlimited;
hopefully their next batch of tunes will capitalize on this
band’s unique talent.
Review: 3 out of 5 stars