With the days ticking down before The Coral’s long-awaited live return to Merseyside at this year’s Sound City, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke picks 11 defining moments from the most fruitful of careers.
1. Alan Wills, Deltasonic, and the birth of a movement
It’s impossible to think of The Coral without Deltasonic, the now-legendary label founded by the late, great Alan Wills in 2000. It was when Wills spotted The Coral‘s poster at the turn of the millenium – of ‘our grandads head exploding’, as they put it – that Merseyside’s next great musical movement was born.
It was under Wills‘ mentorship that The Coral would come to spearhead the (unfortunately labelled) ‘cosmic scouse’ scene of the early 2000s, with The Zutons, The Dead 60s, The Rascals and more following in their wake.Between them they set the wheels in motion for the last gasp of genuinely great British guitar bands.
2. The single that started it all – Dreaming of You
The single that started it all. Though The Coral had already released Shadows Fall and Goodbye from their self-titled 2002 debut, it was Dreaming of You that sent the band, barely out of their teens, stratospheric. Shorn to barely two minutes, crammed with sawtooth jabs of guitar, sax, and that bassline, it was to be the zenith of the New Rock Revolution, outstripping a glut of eager soundalikes that would follow.
3. Deciding not to bother with the Mercury Prize
Just a day after the release of The Coral‘s self-titled debut album in 2002, that year’s Mercury Prize named them on the list of nominees for that year’s award.
Flippant as they were in their early days to the face of a fawning industry in their early days, the band didn’t bother showing up to the schmoozefest. Instead a short clip was contributed of the group being handed their own award by a Freddie Mercury impersonator as they lounged in a jacuzzi. The footage remains heartbreakingly elusive at time of writing.
4. Owning the 2002 NME Awards Tour
However sensational the group were on their early records, on stage they were ten times so. A louche, tangled torrent of eddying, knife-edge psychedelic rock, Bill Ryder-Jones, Lee Southall and Paul Duffy keel between barrages and weaves of guitar and bass head-fuckery as James Skelly prowls centre stage with electrifying insolence, lurching into spasmodic grooves between Bez and Ian Curtis.
In truth this could be any number of live clips from the era, although this from the 2002 NME Awards tour is both long and high-quality. It was also the tumultuous tour on which they called Andrew W.K. a ‘screaming, hairy twat‘, so there’s that too.
5. Outside the envelope – Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker
The band had always had depths of deviant influences to draw on, but on the surrealist, sprawling semi-opus of 2004’s Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker, their sheer strangeness finally matured. The record often goes forgotten among their others, and was decried as “irrelevant and self-indulgent” by Pitchfork – crestfallen that the spearheads of their easily-packaged Cosmic Scouse movement had veered so dramatically outside the psych-pop box.
6. Live with Noel Gallagher – In the Rain at the Electric Proms
Speaking of overlooked pinnacles in The Coral‘s career, In the Rain remains their greatest single that never was. A ferocious, jagged punch of scratches and bolts from 2007’s altogether softer Roots & Echoes, it’s a welcome glance backwards towards their more wired former selves, and their performance of the track at that year’s Electric Proms with the one and only Noel Gallagher is something to behold.
7. A career best – Butterfly House
That The Coral‘s best album was their sixth, says much about their inhuman ability for quality control. By 2010 the band had never made a bad album, along the way they’d made one or two truly magnificent ones, but Butterfly House was their most breathtakingly brilliant.
The band had by now long-strayed from their visceral, frenetic early thrills, and instead drew more on the moments of tenderness that had scattered their work thus far and beefing them up with lush, sweeping soundscapes.
8. Signs of life and The Curse of Love
At the time, Butterfly House felt like the start of a mature new phase for The Coral, although in retrospect it was more of a full stop. By 2014, the band had drifted into hiatus, focusing on various side and solo projects like The Intenders, The Serpent Power and The Viper Kings.
In August 2014, however, there was a twitch. Out of nowhere the band debuted Wrapped In Blue, the first taste of ‘lost’ album The Curse of Love, recorded on an 8-track between The Invisible Invasion and Roots & Echoes. In an interview with Getintothis they were tantalisingly vague about the prospect of a full reunion, all ‘hope’ and ‘perhaps’, but the signs of life were there at last.
9. A tribute to Alan Wills at The GIT Award 2015
In 2014, Alan Wills was killed in a cycling accident, and the city of Liverpool was thrown into shock. Among the many, many musicians and music lovers to pay tribute were the band he had fostered from the start.
At last year’s GIT Award, the Deltasonic founder was named as recipient of the Inspiration Award, and members of The Coral and The Zutons united onstage for payment of respects. Dave McCabe and Ian Skelly performed a rendition of The Zutons’ Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love? while James Skelly and Bill Ryder-Jones reunited to play the Coral’s Shadows Fall in dedication.
10. Back for good – Distance Inbetween
After over half a decade of partial reunions, hopes and hints it was earlier this year that The Coral at last made their full return, announcing late in 2015 that their long-awaited sixth album Distance Inbetween was to follow in March.
“We’re just a great British psychedelic rock band” Getintothis was told by the band’s Nick Power. “That’s what I think we do best, listening to weird obscure music and distilling it into four minute pop tunes. There’s something we’ve got to say that we want to get out, otherwise we’d be wasting people’s time.” Justifying the hype in style, the record was yet another exceptional turn in direction, a rugged, droning LP of heady, heavy psych to fit neatly within a still-spotless discography.
11. A homecoming to remember – Liverpool Sound City 2016
OK, so this one’s not happened yet, but with The Coral back at their best and with a homecoming headline set at one of Merseyside’s best bashes, it’s a nailed-on thriller. “Am I excited? Yeah! Fucking hell, definitely!” said Power in our interview just after the announcement. So are we, Nick, so are we.