The Coral Magic and Medicine

[Epic; 2003]

Styles: pop rock, eclectic rock
Others: Super Furry Animals, Love, The Libertines

The majority of English "indie" bands have spent the last decade attempting to replicate the same choirboy vocals and dissonant melodic guitar formula to varying degrees of success. Every one from James, to Radiohead, and Travis have played with this over the years and it's recently culminated in the chart topping, platinum selling, Gwyneth Paltrow impregnating Coldplay. Yet for every one of the above, there is a dozen more waiting in the wings over populating the English musical landscape. Even with this over saturation, many in England wonder why more of their acts don’t top the US charts like they used to.

Enter The Coral, who, unlike the majority of English guitar bands, remember the lessons of their forefathers and understand that English rock music works best when it appropriates uniquely American styles of music. With their second LP, Magic and Medicine, The Coral show they have learned well from their predecessors by further exploring the 60s Americana that was surprisingly evident on their self-titled debut. Experimenting with everything from western ballads to west coast pop, these six Merseyside youth are an extreme exception to what has become the norm in their native England. Completely ignoring every musical trend since 1970, the band hail their allegiance to Arthur Lee with "Confessions of A.D.D.D." and on "Liezah" display a penchant for producing glimmering acoustic pop ballads that could make James Mercer of the Shins blush with bashful envy.

Which is why Magic and Medicine can be as frustrating as it is often times brilliant. The Coral’s skill lies in their ability to create effortless pop gems, yet songs like "Talkin Gypsy Market Blues" veer towards chaotic honky-tonk, while "Milkwood Blues" is littered with jazz breakdowns best left for the high school jam bands of the world. The band's attempts to incorporate as many musical idioms as possible in order to prove their musical worth frequently results in cluttered songwriting, whose lack of focus leaves one wanting for the breath taking skill so glaringly apparent on other tracks like "Eskimo Lament" and "All Our Love."

Even with these faults, it’s easy to forget that The Coral are a young band (their average age is 19); and while they may not have crafted a consistently brilliant work, it shows that these six ingénues may, with the maturing power of time, one-day forge a truly stunning pop opus. Magic and Medicine may not be that album, but it reveals a band getting closer to that goal with every release.

1. In the Forest
2. Don't Think You're the First
3. Liezah
4. Talkin' Gypsy Market Blues
5. Secret Kiss
6. Milkwood Blues
7. Bill McCai
8. Eskimo Lament
9. Careless Hands
10. Pass It On
11. All of Our Love
12. Confessions of A.D.D.D.