The English six-piece band the Coral are a definite change of pace from the usual major-label Brit-pop exports. Instead of brawny, polished guitars, chiming, pitch-perfect harmonies, and stoically earnest lead vocals, they bring to the fore reedy saxophone lines, jovial interplay between organ and guitar, and the nicotine-stained vocals of frontman James Skelly.
At its poppiest, The Coral does bring to mind some of Echo and the Bunnymenís more orchestral rock efforts and, given the prominence of the organ, the Doors (a band with a singer, Jim Morrison, to whom Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch has often been compared). The bandís wild card is a Russian folk influence that emerges on the droning, minor-key "Shadows Fall" and rises to the surface on "I Remember When" and "Wildfire," both of which include high-stepping dance interludes. Yet the album draws equal inspiration from their Merseyside home. "Simon Diamond," a folk tale about a man who becomes a plant, and the jangly, guitar-driven "Goodbye" fuse late-í60s Anglo-psychedelic rock to Celtic-sounding melodies. "Spanish Main," with its strident three-part harmonies, and "Skeleton Key," with its frenetic tempo, bring to mind rowdy pirate tunes updated with contemporary instruments. Showing off their sense of playful adventure, the Coral bring together familiar sounds in a way that tweaks the boundaries of pop.