Express & Star

The Coral are back on song

The tour began with a thrilling night at one of the UK’s finest regional theatres. The Coral’s James Skelly and Nick Power took to the stage at Chester Storyhouse to regale an audience of enthusiasts about their ground-breaking debut record, released 22 years ago to wild acclaim.

The Coral back in 2002

In the post-Britpop landscape, where guitar bands were assumed to be washed up and where Oasis’s implosion had heralded darker days for pop, The Coral were an antidote. Offering a debut album fizzing with ideas and innovation, The Coral suggested a brave new world.

Their eponymous debut was described by NME as being the funniest, most refreshing British new release in years. Sonically unique, wilfully leftfield and thrillingly eclectic, The Coral combined psychedelia with dub, disco groove with pop and ragtime with Egyptian reggae on a remarkable debut that has proved to be timeless.

Twenty-two years on, that records sounds as fresh and remarkable as it did when it was released on 29th July 2002. The band’s sojourn into psychedelia and folk rock was refreshing and inventive, compelling and precocious. It helped to change the musical landscape, while also adding The Coral’s name to the remarkable inventory of classic British beat bands from Liverpool – a catalogue that began with The Beatles, in whose famed Cavern Club The Coral cut their teeth.

Universal acclaim followed a record described as being a mass of remarkable contradictions while BRIT Award and Mercury Music Prize nominations were duly conferred. Two decades provide perspective, of course, and The Coral holds up remarkably well – a testament to the band’s invention. This signed, boxed, limited edition volume features exclusive commentary from the band as well as previously-unseen photography as it reflects on one of the greatest records of the new Millennium.

And so that moment in time has been marked with a tour of a dozen UK venues. It includes a sell-out show at London’s prestigious Union Chapel, and one West Midlands date – at Lichfield Garrick Theatre, on March 29.

The tour is accompanied by a lavishly produced, boxed book, signed by each member of the band, with an exclusive live CD of their sold-out Spring 2022 show at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory.

James Skelly says: “It’s remarkable, really. I didn’t get on well with school, then I saw Noel Gallagher and I thought ‘I can do that’.

“I’d been sent to courses to be an electrician and all sorts of things. But the only thing I really cared about was music, and I guess that’s central to the story.

“We were very different. That was our thing. When we’re at our best that is our thing. Maybe it’s not the thing that sells most records but that’s our thing.

“We were always going to the beach to smoke weed. We’d stand on the beach and if we looked one way it would be Wales then you’d look in the other direction and see Liverpool. That sense of identity was important. I remember talking about it with Nick when we’d just get stoned and talk crap. We thought that if we could bring those two things together, nobody had really done that.

“There was the rebellion between the two of them – Wales and Liverpool. There was this quirkiness and uncool thing. It was almost the opposite of London, almost the opposite of bands like Radiohead. Not that there was anything wrong with Radiohead, they were a genius band, but I remember at the time that they seemed liked this big prog band and we wanted to be the opposite of that. We wanted to bring the Welsh psyche thing and the Liverpool thing together, the skiffle thing. We wanted that wackiness and psychedelia with that hillbilly thing of the Welsh.”

Nick Power says the band’s music was very much a product of growing up on The Wirral. “The Wirral is a weird place to get a handle on. It’s a tale of two towns. I moved over when I was four or five and it was quite an idyllic place. It was quite quiet and was just a nice place to grow up. I never felt like I really belonged there though. The Wirral is just bang in the middle of Liverpool and Wales, that’s one of the things I remember the most. Even when I was young, when I was standing on the beach, my dad pointed to Liverpool in one direction, over the Mersey, and Wales in the other, over the River Dee. That’s probably the strongest thing that I can remember about it. You can see both of them, clear as day. The Wirral’s a total mixture between Liverpool and Wales.”

The band’s debut album was an instant hit. It was released on 29 July 2002, through the Deltasonic record label, having been produced by the Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Broudie. The band toured the UK twice while also supporting Pulp and Oasis. The V Festival was next on their list as the band’s second single, Dreaming Of You, helped provide a break-through. The Coral received universal acclaim reviews from music critics, many of whom praised the high quality musicianship. It raced to number five in the chart, while also charting in France, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, and the US. Nominaations soon followed for the Mercury Music Prize, and a Brit Award.

James says: “You start off wanting to get out of where you’ve been in normal life.

“Friendship, becoming a gang; that’s the first thing.

“You don’t start off thinking you want to make Astral Weeks or emulate Oasis. That might loom into view eventually, it might become a gateway, but the first thing is starting that gang. That’s how you get your identity. You start the gang, the gang becomes the band.

“You’re just a blank page. That’s all you are when you leave school.

“We found an identity together. We just clicked. By the time it came to making an album it was almost telepathic. We almost lived like a mini cult. We just did the album ourselves. In some ways, the album was almost an afterthought. Making a record wasn’t even really discussed, really. It was just telepathic.

“Getting started was the main thing. People normally have a few different band members where things aren’t right. Then gradually everyone gels and it falls into place.

“When we started, we went in all sorts of crazy directions. We had a moment where it was like being in The Verve, or something. That was when we were still in the rehearsal rooms. Then there came a time when it just flipped and it was like Captain Beefheart and Love. We did this little session in my bedroom, where we did Skeleton Key and this tune called Come Home, and they were so different to any other band.

“Me and Nick worked on those then listened to the tape. We just knew there was something there. It was off the wall compared to everything else. There was no one else making music like that. It almost had a sense of humour to it, which you wouldn’t get from Oasis or The Verve or whoever. So we followed that path. We didn’t really speak about it, we just followed that river together.”

Ian Skelly adds: “People put the record into The Top 100 Albums You Have To Hear Before You Die. We were just crazy.

“I think there’s a Liverpool thing that makes The Coral special. That’s what I’ve been told over the years, that’s all I can put it down to. Liverpool’s always had more of an affinity with psychedelic music than any other places.”

Paul Duffy says life became a blur as the record took off. “From there, it’s just a blur, most of it’s a blur, to be honest. I had no idea how the songs would be received. We just did what we did at our very best. Broudie did an amazing job of capturing it down onto tape, which it was back then. I had no idea of what was going to happen next. All I knew was that we had to do what we do, to be The Coral, to get out there, get some kicks under our belt, pay our dues and have a buzz.”

Twenty-odd years on, the band are still buzzing. And their lovingly-produced, expensively-made, collectors’ edition book tells the story of one of the greatest contemporary British records of the past two decades.

Copies of The Making Of The Debut Album by The Coral, with free CD of Live At Liverpool Invisible Wind Factory, are available, priced £40, at:

Tickets for The Coral at Lichfield Garrick are available from the venue.

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