There are bands that can reinvent or utilize a particular ‘sound’ from rock’s back pages without coming across as archivists or cynical copycats, and then there are others that simply ape their influences. Oasis and Sweden’s The Creeps are just 2 examples of the later; of the former, The Cramps, Fuzztones, Dukes Of Stratosphere (XTC in disguise) and Liverpool’s The Coral are stellar examples of the former.
Let’s focus on the Coral for today, though, as they don’t get nearly the amount of press they deserve. Let me admit that I have only heard 3 of their albums and of the three the American edition of Magic and Medicine (which includes the short Nightfreak and the Sons Of Becker) is the best. Throw it on for someone and they might think that it’s some long lost Animals album from 1966, albeit with Ian McCulloch fronting them. They started out as a wildly creative crew of extremely young and gifted musicians, all childhood friends, and focused (and it sounds worse than it is) for their debut with a modern take on pirate tunes and sea shanties. This, their second, jettisoned that particular sound for a focused recreation of mid ‘60’s Brit-pop. Closer listens reveal a real originality at work here, but the real treasure is the quality of the songwriting and the absolute conviction of the band themselves to craft a special, very British, album. It is also polished to a high sheen, very professional sounding.
As I alluded to earlier, the US edition comes with the supposed ‘stop gap’ album Nightfreak and the Sons Of Becker. This release was recorded in a week, apparently in one of the band members sheds, and is all the better for it in my humble opinion. For one it sounds more ‘modern’, something akin to the Super Furry Animals early releases; second, it’s a much easier listen, much more fun and off the cuff and not as beholden to a particular sound or era. That’s not to say Magic and Medicine is an inferior album to Nightfreak. I actually prefer the former and think it a more satisfying album. But together, as a double album, it makes for a very entertaining listen, one that begs to be played again and again.