Photo: Ben Morgan

The Coral Are Confident and Push Forward on ‘Move Through the Dawn’

Inconsistent songwriting and a strange album cover detract from the confidence and musical strengths of the Coral's Move Through the Dawn.

Move Through the Dawn
The Coral
10 August 2018

On the follow-up to their 2016 return Distance Inbetween, British band the Coral eschew psychedelic sounds for quicker pop sensibilities. The band’s new album, Move Through the Dawn, is built from lead singer James Skelly’s signature vocals and songwriting capabilities, and contains some compelling hooks, but ultimately feels like a forgettable sidestep away from its dynamic predecessor. Musically and lyrically in vein with the Coral’s catalog, weaker and rushed songwriting permeate the album. At the same time, tracks that build upon the Coral’s career are present, too, with “She’s a Runaway” and “Strangers in the Hollow” reflecting strong notes of Skelly’s songwriting knowledge and connecting nicely to past albums.

Opener, “Eyes Like Pearls”, welcomes the stylistic shift nicely and builds a positive background to Skelly’s lyrics speaking of tangible loss and immediate confrontation with “troubles [that] seemed so far away from me”. Here is the shift from Distance Inbetween that the album embodies, but without the severity that comes with second track “Reaching Out for a Friend”. The track is hopelessly directionless, asking questions with no clear background and offers revelations built on generic sentiments. Lead single “Sweet Release” follows and is a strong and joyous charge forward musically with lyrics that chart a positivity in “a new belief”. Shockingly, the second and third tracks serve as a back and forth of sorts, and the hollow “Reaching Out for a Friend” nearly derails the album. “Sweet Release” builds upon the opener nicely, evoking a darker, richer, background with strikingly hopeful if seeping with despondency.

The first half of the album exemplifies a divergence from the Coral’s 2016 return but contains two of the best tracks on the album: “She’s a Runaway” and “Strangers in the Hollow”. The latter track contains jangling guitar and harmonized vocals, sounding quite close to the 1960s qualities presented by many of the Coral’s strongest tracks. “She’s a Runaway” sings of dreams confronting loss: “it’s too late … it’s too late …” Similarly, “Strangers in the Hollow” continues this thread, with Skelly singing of a void, a mask and disguise, and the title verse. With more orchestration and stronger percussion than “She’s a Runaway”, the track is far fuller and lusher in sound.

With tracks “Love or Solution”, “Eye of the Moon”, and “Undercover of the Night”, there is a feeling of filler more than building upon the direction of the album. The tracks are notably forgettable compared to the preceding and following tracks. “Love or Solution” is remarkedly sparse compared to “Strangers in the Hollow”, then “Eye of the Moon” relies too heavily on a choral overture in its mid-section, between too-brief sections of repetitive lyrics, and “Undercover of the Night” repeats this aspect with repetitive lyrics and a hummed mid-section. Building successively, these tracks illustrate the weaker attribute and rushed quality that flares early on the album and fails to fade despite some excellent music along the way.

The album’s latter half evokes the best connection to previous Coral albums and is ultimately the strongest. “Outside My Window” evokes a morose and melancholy lament behind loud guitars and an organ that drives forward despite the apparent pain and inability to cope with change after an unrevealed loss. The penultimate track “Stormbreaker” carries that theme and dynamic composition of loud guitars and striking lyrics with a harsh condemnation of the title character. Guitar work throughout this track harkens to Distance Inbetween prominently, building a ceiling of dread and doom before abruptly halting. Finally, the album’s last pre-release track (and closer) “After the Fair” wistfully brings the album down with a striking acoustic performance deserving placement alongside tracks including in the Coral’s past albums, like on the lost The Curse of Love (2014) or The Invisible Invasion (2005).

One less compelling component worth noting, in conclusion, is the album’s odd cover: in no appearance does it reflect the visual components that artistically ranged from colorful to minimal in the band’s catalog. Maybe this detracts the album altogether, too. The cover is hardly inspiring, and it seems to reveal laziness in the album: as though the Coral found steam on Distance Inbetween and are going through the motions on Move Through the Dawn.

Move Through the Dawn sounds like the Coral are confident and pushes forward from Distance Inbetween. The album is a strong statement for a band that emerged amidst the guitar rock of the early 2000s and stubbornly built success and a career on retro interests and stylistic cues. That makes Move Through the Dawn enjoyable, even while its inconsistencies mark a stark difference from its predecessor or other Coral albums, like the overlooked Roots & Echoes (2007) or the lost The Curse of Love (2014).

RATING 6 / 10