The Coral review – psych pop's sullen cowboys are stuck in the past

Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
The Liverpool band – back from a five-year live hiatus – delivered half-written psych-by-numbers songs in a lacklustre performance

Ask Wayne Coyne, Julian Cope or King Gizzard; there are no part-time posts at Space Cadet Academy. Being cosmic takes commitment, and Liverpool’s the Coral, frontrunners of the noughties Merseyside pop revival, always felt like half-hearted astral projectors. While monks, astronauts and mystical deep-sea divers have populated their hallucinogenic promo materials for 15 years, on stage they’re blokes in cowboy hats sullenly phoning in lacklustre psych pop as if forced to by their mums. Or perhaps a little cowed by the acclaim for their ex-guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones’ brilliant albums.

Back from a five-year live hiatus, tracks from this year’s eighth album Distance Inbetween, particularly Miss Fortune and opener Chasing the Tail of a Dream, bring a drone-laden authenticity to the blend of 60s psychedelia, Merseybeat, Motown and western soundtracks that the Coral, somehow, always made sound like a mariachi Munsters. So it’s a mystery that they’re still playing corny monk shanty Simon Diamond – the Roman galleon scene that the Who thankfully didn’t write into Tommy – or so many half-written psych-by-numbers songs that mistake Byrds harmonies for chorus hooks.

Hemmed in by muso indulgences, rump-quaking hits like In the Morning and Dreaming of You seem as scarce as diplomatic Trump tweets, and the band even scythe-tackle a promising late run by Goodbye with a prog interlude so long that you worry they’re planning to play it until the 70s come round again. Australian full-timers Tame Impala and Pond are refreshing psych pop right now; the Coral, by comparison, sound stuck in the part of 2003 that was stuck in 1968.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Coral: Move Through the Dawn review – vintage songs of sad euphoria
Their ninth album sees the Coral break out some old friends - references to water, melancholy yearning and sublime choruses – it’s a lovely thing

Dave Simpson

10, Aug, 2018 @8:30 AM

Article image
The Coral review – ready again for liftoff
The rejuvenated Mersey five-piece host a trippy party to showcase their comeback album Distance Inbetween, and throw in a heartfelt greatest hits selection too

Dave Simpson

13, Mar, 2016 @3:06 PM

Article image
The Coral: Distance Inbetween review – reunited and re-energised
After a five-year break, the Coral are back with a bit of extra muscle

Ally Carnwath

06, Mar, 2016 @8:00 AM

The Coral: Butterfly House | CD review
The Heston Blumenthals of pop have become much more predictable in their use of ingredients, fears Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

08, Jul, 2010 @8:59 PM

The Coral: Butterfly House | CD review
There are some fine melodies on the Wirral-based psychedelicists' sixth album, but some of their earlier chaotic bravado wouldn't go amiss, says Hugh Montgomery

Hugh Montgomery

10, Jul, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
The Coral: Coral Island review – glorious psychedelia for sunny days
Nostalgic without bitterness or regret, the melodies pour out of this double album themed around the titular resort

Michael Hann

30, Apr, 2021 @7:30 AM

Article image
The Coral: Distance Inbetween review – indie veterans make a purposeful return
The psychedelic rockers may no longer be their old playful selves, but their new record is a expert demonstration in controlled, stormy intensity

Michael Hann

03, Mar, 2016 @5:55 PM

Article image
The Coral break indefinite hiatus to release eight-year-old album
‘Psych-folk album’ Curse of Love from 2006 will be released in the next few weeks

Sean Michaels

28, Aug, 2014 @7:53 AM

Article image
The Coral return: 'Success was like a runaway train – chaotic with no control'
After a breakneck run of hits, the wheels finally came off for the Wirral psych-pop oddballs. Then, just as they were ready to regroup, their mentor died. ‘Nothing prepares you for that’ they tell us

Dave Simpson

03, Mar, 2016 @5:37 PM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2021
And finally – a deserving winner, whose second solo album is a truly relatable, pin-sharp pop classic. We reveal our No 1 album of 2021

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

17, Dec, 2021 @6:52 AM