Music

The Coral: Distance Inbetween

Back after six years, the Coral have gone dark and ominous with an offering that presents a band still pushing, still experimenting, still relevant for these more troubling times.


The Coral

Distance Inbetween

Label: Ignition
US Release Date: 2016-03-04
UK Release Date: 2016-03-04
Amazon
iTunes

The Beatles were an anomaly in many ways. One of their less remarked characteristics is how they became more popular while still pushing boundaries and being less obviously “commercial”. It’s usually the other way round: for example, Supergrass, whose 2005 album Road to Rouen was light years ahead of their bubblegum 1995 debut, but sold only half the amount.

The Coral are a band who do firmly belong in the "getting better as they sell less" bracket. Their first two albums on the early '00s had major commercial appeal -- and company in the shape of the amiable, straightforward folky pop of the Kooks and Razorlight. Sure, the Coral had a quirky edge (spaghetti western guitar and sea shanties) that marked them out even then, but their capacity for growth and musical invention was not immediately self-evident. Fast forward to 2010, and Butterfly House showcased masters of their craft: a gem of an album, blending psychedelia, melody, mystery and golden-voiced harmonies to produce a stand-out of late British pop making. Shame it didn’t sell that much; it gives absolute meaning to the epithet under-rated.

Six years on from Butterfly House, and here comes the band’s first collection of new material (the psychedelic folk songs making up 2014's The Curse of Love don't count as they had been recorded nearly a decade earlier) since their career high. According to lead vocalist and songwriter James Skelly, the Coral went in to record their follow-up to Butterfly House straightaway. But the recordings fizzled out, and there is the sense they needed the long break to make the sot of album they have now fashioned.

Butterfly House 2.0 would have gone down well enough, and might have located a greater listenership half a decade later. Second number "White Bird" would certainly have sat well within Butterfly House and is quite simply gorgeous. It’s doubtful these highly accomplished musicians from the north of England have ever managed to emulate the masterly vocal harmonies of the Byrds quite as they do here. Add some Revolver-like guitar stylings (a feature of Distance Inbetween) and a metronomic groove, and "White Bird" is truly a track borne on the wings of angels.

Although they mine the Byrds/CSN mood again on "She Runs the River", the story of "Distance Inbetween" is how the Coral have pushed through their comfort zone and unequivocally “got out there”. "Chasing the Tail of a Dream" is space music that recalls the '70s purveyors of the genre. "Hawkwind" is underpinned by a beautiful liquid guitar break and a James Skelly vocal that sounds more like Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys than his north England roots.

The next song, the title track, finds Skelly in reflective, elegiac mood. He breaks up the heavy electric edge later on with the delphic "It’s You". But "Million Miles" is more emblematic of this album: skuzzy guitar (courtesy of new lead guitarist and long-standing mate Paul Molloy). It's almost glam in its thudding groove.

The band reportedly wanted "Distance Inbetween" to be grounded in their founder member rhythm section, and drummer Ian Skelly (James’s brother) and bassist Paul Duffy are a formidable combination. But James Skelly’s ear for a tune and his band’s propensity to decorate light and heavy tracks with subtle guitar stylings and bursts of keyboard (courtesy of the excellent Nick Power) mean that the songs never go down into unrelenting lockdown. The Coral's outstanding love for the psychedelic hue is also, thankfully, never too far away.

In truth, there is no passenger track on this album, and the Coral give no impression of slackening off from first to last. The mood is intense, occasionally dark, on the edge, claustrophobic, none of it is done for laughs, a tendency of their in the past. Butterfly House surfed on mystery, while Distance Inbetween’s theme is more ominous, reflecting the band’s experience of “heavy shit” and sad loss these past few years. Whereas their erstwhile guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones’s latest solo album, in 2015, was built on introspection, the Coral seemingly needed extrospection to publicly express themselves

Ultimately, Distance Inbetween can’t quite summon the dominant golden theme that infused Butterfly House. But in other ways, this endlessly fascinating band have gone one step further, demonstrating that a love of Chris Isaak, '70s American driving music, David Lynch dreamscapes, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and Eastern drone can still find a place for listening in the noise factory of 2016. Highly recommended.

9


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.