The Outer Limits: How Prog Are The Coral?
The Coral are just a bunch of chart-bothering, jaunty-tuned Britpoppers, aren’t they? Yet the Liverpool band are committed to prog punk and inspired by classic Hawkwind.
Lemmy’s dead. Long live Lemmy. The Hawkwind/Motörhead bass legend haunts every groove of Distance Inbetween, the latest album from Liverpool band The Coral.
What, The Coral? The NME favourites whose jaunty scally melodies brought them recognition in the early 2000s as sort of latter-day Britpoppers? The same Coral whose first four albums were Top 5 hits and whose singles – Goodbye, Dreaming Of You, Don’t Think You’re The First, Pass It On – achieved cuddly mainstream ubiquity, with one of them, 2005’s In The Morning, becoming the most-played track on British radio that year after Beyoncé? That Coral?
Yup, the very same. Still, it’s not as though they’ve never visited the further reaches of the rock-o-sphere: their albums have betrayed the influence of everyone from The Doors to Pink Floyd, Can to Captain Beefheart, while also featuring unexpected elements of doo wop and dub, spaghetti western and barbershop quartets. And they’ve worked with everyone from Geoff Barrow of trip hop pioneers Portishead and experimental outfit BEAK> to John Leckie, production/engineering supremo at the controls for Pink Floyd, Plastic Ono Band, Be-Bop Deluxe, XTC and countless others.
In fact, it was Leckie – having produced The Coral’s 2010 album Butterfly House – who encouraged them to pursue their latest direction.
“Leckie heard us play live,” recalls James Skelly, the band’s guitarist and main songwriter from his home in Hoylake, the seaside town on the Wirral where you can see for the proverbial miles, all the way to Liverpool on one side and Wales on the other. His accent is impenetrable, his speech pattern meandering, just as you’d expect from a member of a crew dubbed ‘Cosmic Scousers’. “He said, ‘It’s like prog punk,’ and he told us that’s what we need to make an album like: prog punk.”
Following the producer’s orders, prog punk was indeed the path they took. Unfortunately, they got lost on the way, unable to find quite the sound they had in their heads.
“We were searching and searching for the sound, and I knew what it was,” says Skelly, recalling the moment he was lost in the metaphorical mist, with no direction home. Suddenly, as though by magic, a sign: “I heard Warrior On The Edge Of Time by Hawkwind, and that was it. I thought, ‘That’s what I’m looking for!’ That record inspired our album.”
The ghost of Lemmy?