Second time around and The Coral are still taking delight in what they do best: confounding expectations at every turn. Back in 2002, when the music world was going mad for the retro delights of The Strokes and The White Stripes, they exploded onto the scene with their self-titled debut. It was a psychedelia-drenched record that also delighted in looking backwards, but in a strange world far closer to home. In ‘Dreaming Of You’, it contained one of the finest indie-pop singles of all time, and the following year’s Magic & Medicine continued to show an equal aptitude at melodious, 60s-infused folk-pop. As time progressed, further releases have had more of a low-key appeal, though frontman James Skelly has never lost his keen ear for a heart- stopping melody. In 2012, however, the band announced a hiatus due to solo projects and fears were raised that that was that for The Coral.
Returning in 2016 with Distance Inbetween, leaning heavily once more on psychedelic exploration, they have once again performed an artistic handbrake turn and now return with a largely beautiful record of simple, MOR-influenced pop-rock moments. Opener ‘Eyes Like Pearls’ sets the tone with its easy-listening rhythm and hints of Jeff Lynne, though the following ‘Reaching Out For A Friend’ (catchy as it is), feels like a mis-step and is strangely reminiscent of a Peter Kay pastiche in its production. You almost expect a comedy video to accompany it, complete with Status Quo messing around on it. However, that undeniable catchiness will mean an awful lot of people will still love it.
‘Sweet Release’ kicks up the gears, an urgency lying beneath that drives the album on into a run of fine tracks. ‘She’s A Runaway’ harks back to the classic Coral sound, while ‘Strangers In The Hollow’ shows that Skelly has lost absolutely none of his ability to fashion a beautifully-written melody out of the simplest of tunes. The record shows a wonderful balance of every stylistic aspect of the band, a perfect marriage of folk, psychedelia and drive-time pop-rock.
‘Eyes Of The Moon’ has a gentle flute melody lying subtly underneath the main song, skipping gently to the fore at points before fading away in a gorgeous fashion. ‘Undercover Of The Night’, meanwhile, brings a raw vocal out from Skelly to balance against a gently driving rhythm. As it reaches its crescendo with the Spector-esque Wall Of Sound effect to ‘Outside My Window’, and the heavy soaring riffs to ‘Stormbreaker’, we are taken away to wholly new worlds that feel galaxies apart from the album’s beginning.
Move Through The Dawn is, without doubt, a quintessential Coral album in that it exists entirely in and of itself, with little respect paid to external trends or fashions. It is entirely refreshing and rewarding to see a band continue to forge their own path, and continue to release records that bow to no one but their own wishes and inspirations. It seems to grows into itself as it progresses, as well as through repeated listens. When a much-loved band returns from hiatus, there is always a nagging worry as to how long it will last for. On this evidence, however, there is much to suggest that The Coral will be inviting us all into their strange and beautiful world for quite some time yet.