The Coral - Magic And Medicine

The Coral's debut album, an album filled with so many influences it was probably the only album you'd dare use the phrase eclectic without cringing with embarrassment. Taking in Russian folk music and classic 60s pop alongside cultural references such as Tetris and Scooby Doo and yet still it was a perfect guitar pop album which made us reminisce of that so called golden era of Britpop. "Magic And Medicine" was an album that could never really match up to it's predecessor and with so many scouse bands (The Bandits / 28 Costumes) ploughing the same field the Coral really had to make a departure from the chaotic experimentalism which made them what they are.

"In The Forest" sounds like the soundtrack to a Vincent Price movie merged with the Doors "Hello I Love You" which brings eerie images of some crime of passion that ends up with a bludgeoned body rotting in a shallow grave. "Don't Think You're The First" follows a similar downbeat tempo and as well as being one of the most alluringly strange singles of the past 12 months it manages to capture the spirit of the previous album's "Calendars And Clocks". Russian folk, gregorian chants, melodica - in fact everything you'd want from a record. On "Talking Gypsy Market Blues" they sum up the phrase every single journalist had been searching for about the band for so long. Working as a bridge between the old experimental Coral and the new classic songwriting direction that has come to the fore on this record. Songs such as the single "Pass It On", their most overtly pop release to date, and "Liezah" are songs which stand apart from the usual madness that has seen the band divulge in 20 minute jams on live national radio. The albums final track "Confessions Of A.D.D.D" sees the band rip up the rule book and instead of delivering the usual introverted ballad as a send off they decide to unleash a 6 minute pop song that takes in everything from 60s Girls Groups, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", The Byrds, the usual Jim Morrisson overtones, brass stabs and an electronica influenced outro.

"Magic And Medicine" is an album which can demand time and patience. At other times the thrill is immediate and that's the great thing about the Coral. Already working on songs for their 3rd album there's a sense of where do they go next and the options are limitless. They could take it to the next level and write an album which crosses over to the pure pop fans and yet they could simply walk away and write the most extreme album of their career and alienate half their fanbase. For the time being they're happy to straddle both fences and for me that's more than enough.

Alex McCann

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