Essential New Music: The Coral’s “Distance In Between”

Coral

It’s been six years since the Coral’s last album and what seems like a lifetime since the U.K. music press hailed the band as the next big thing. The saucer-eyed scousers rose to critical acclaim with an inspired mix of classic psych pop (the Doors, Love), vintage Echo & The Bunnymen, soul, reggae and the occasional sea shanty (and why not?). It’s an endearingly weed-fueled, fuzzy, kitchen-sink approach that’s served the group well. Think the late, lamented Beta Band’s younger cousins minus the hip-hop influences. Now, the Coral is back, promoting a rougher, supposedly more immediate sound.

Recorded live and frequently in one take, it’s undoubtedly meatier than past efforts. There are big, brash fuzz-toned riffs throughout, pseudo-motorik grooves pulse along efficiently (Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud and krautrock compilations were a big influence, apparently), and it’s all very competent and professional. And therein lies the problem. The lightness of touch that lifted past albums seems to be largely missing. At times (witness the wintry, spectral “Beyond The Sun” or the suitably warped “Connector”), the record flirts with greatness, but too often it settles for the two-dimensional and never fully takes off. There’s enough here to keep diehard Coral heads satisfied, but a little more of the band’s mercurial waywardness would’ve been welcome.

—Neil Ferguson