Album Reviews

The Coral – Distance Inbetween


The Coral have always been outsiders. Springing up in 2002, this young and fully formed six-piece dazzled listeners with Captain Beefheart-esque psychedelia, pop hooks and classic songwriting. At the time, the NME led New Rock Revolution was in full swing and aside from The Zutons, they seemed completely out of step with the predominantly garage rock bands they were sharing column inches with. Producing outstanding albums as a frenetic pace –their first two albums in particular still sound spectacular—could not last and the past few years have been one of contemplation and regrouping for the band. Losing the outrageously talented Bill Ryder-Jones and original guitarist Lee Southall nearly broke them and the extended hiatus taken in recent times was expected to be a permanent arrangement. Rather unexpectedly they have returned with Distance Inbetween. The question now is which version of the band are we getting; the extended psych-jams of their early albums or the mature ballads of their latter material?

Distance Inbetween is the heaviest thing the band have produced since the mini-album Nightfreaks and the Sons of Becker. This sounds like a band that has embraced the enforced change of line-up and isn’t trying too hard to stick to a rigid formula. The album opens with ‘Connector’, a dark, heavy song full of fuzzy reverb and James Skelly’s inimitable voice. The pulsating beat and heavy synths are at odds with much of the bands recent output and is a welcome return to the sound of their early work. The pace is maintained with ‘White Bird’, a looping stomp with flashes of electric guitar brilliance but it is ‘Chasing the Tail of a Dream’ that offers the first example that The Coral still have something brilliant to offer. This assured and urgent number is the first single taken from the album but could easily have nestled itself snugly onto the track listing of 2003’s Magic and Medicine.

Aside from psychedelic wig-outs, another other thing The Coral do well is melodic pop. ‘Distance Inbetween’ is the first example of this, it floats along with some tender flourishes but unfortunately it never really catches you. Pleasant and likeable as it is, it feels like a misstep. ‘Beyond The Sun’ glows with a tribal percussion and shimmering vocals while the haunting ‘She Runs the River’ echoes the more cerebral tracks from 2010’s Butterfly House. ‘Fear Machine’ sees the band moving into new territory. Its glam vibe and fuzzy arrangement hints at a band eager to push themselves forward rather than tread water.

The Coral took a break five years ago and it was very much needed; jaded and seemingly hanging by a thread. While they still offered the occasional gem, they were overly reliant on a tested formula. They return with a revitalised sound, eager to develop and push themselves into new sonic fields. Distance Inbetween may not catapult The Coral into the stratosphere but it is a document of an unmistakably talented band clicking into gear. The loss of two original members may have forced a rethink but with a developing sound and ideas to burn, the hope is that The Coral don’t go back into hiatus any time soon. David O’Neill