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.

Contributor

Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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