The Coral: Move Through the Dawn review – vintage songs of sad euphoria

(Ignition Records)

Although the Coral started in Hoylake on the Wirral Peninsula in the 1990s and were Mercury-nominated in 2002, they were so young that, even after two decades, the core members are still only in their 30s. Along the way, they’ve lost two guitarists (the mercurial Bill Ryder-Jones, not once but twice) and a mentor (Deltasonic’s late Alan Wills), gained a Zuton in Paul Molloy, and dabbled in every genre from weird Wirral folk to cosmic funk and songs about maggots.

It’s been a strange trip, and following 2016’s robustly psychedelic Distance Inbetween, their ninth album brings yet another handbrake turn. Apparently inspired by the playlist at Wirral fair (from Del Shannon to Phil Spector’s 1970s albums with Dion and the Ramones), this time it’s partially back to the 1960s balladry of 2005 smash In the Morning and 2007’s exquisite Jacqueline. Opener Eyes Like Pearls almost plays Coral bingo in the way it ticks all their vintage boxes, with watery references, a melancholy yearning for youthful innocence and a sublime, lilting chorus (“Eyes like pearls in the warming seas / as deep as the ocean, as wide as the valley / all my troubles seem so far away from me”).

Distance Inbetween pushed the “freakout” button, but most of the songs here are built on frontman James Skelly’s forensic understanding of pop construction, with killer chord changes and musical shifts between melancholy and euphoria. Reaching Out for a Friend is almost new wave. She’s a Runaway is haunting and wistful. Their psychedelic tendencies surface most on Eyes of the Moon – which may feature a flute – and the hazy Outside My Window. Conversely, acoustic ballad After the Fair (beautifully fingerpicked by Nick Power) finds Skelly at his most unashamedly dreamy, with carousel/fairground imagery, a whirling organ and an emotionally loaded lyric about looking to tomorrow “before it’s gone away”.

There’s nothing here that pushes the envelope for pop, or even for the Coral, but there doesn’t always need to be. It’s another lovely, solid effort from one of Britain’s most enduring bands.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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