Friday , September 25 2020
Sophomore Slump, Version 2.5?

The Coral, Magic And Medicine

Sophomore slump, Version 2.5?
After their shambollically eclectic debut, Britain’s Coral have attempted to dodge the dreaded Second Album Curse with a U.S. release containing two discs done in two modes: one full of production slickery, the second possessing a more rough-hewn recording sound.
I enjoyed the Brit poppers’ eponymous debut for its hooky use of Nuggets garage psychedelia. Though uneven at times (“Skeleton Key,” earlier inexplicably released as an EP, was a messy non-song, while exercises like “Simon Diamond” were too damn precious for their own good), the band’s let’s-throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to album-making paid off with some crystalline tracks (the fiery “Goodbye,” for instance, or the 60’s r-&-b-ish “Thinking of You”). Not an easy trick to pull off twice, so the band doesn’t really try.
Instead, singer/songwriter James Skelly settles for a more consistent sound on Magic and Medicine (Deltasonic/Sony): less “Why Pick on Me?” or early Mothers of Invention than Anthem of the Sun. About half the tracks on Disc One settle for the pseudo psinister psychedelia of opener “In the Forest,” while several potentially dynamic cuts on the first disc run out of steam due to overdeliberate playing and production. Only “Talkin’ Gypsy Market Blues,” which wishes it were electric Dylan in the worst way, and “Bill McCai,” a Standells-influenced middle-class ennui song, show any of the debut’s vim, while a couple of first disc tracks (“Liezah” and “Pass It On”) admittedly have a sweet Village Greeny acoustic tone that’s nearly buried by the surrounding droniness.
Disc Two (with the Billy Corganish title: Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker) has much more energy, but it’s not always directed toward songs worth the exertion. “Auntie’s Operation” and “Migraine” have a punkish aggression that I wish the band would explore further, though, while “I Forgot My Name” is as garagey as you want it to be. The band even includes a quick-cut druggy throwaway reminiscent of the break in Robyn Hitchcock’s “Man with the Lightbulb Head,” which mainly serves to remind you what a great album Fegmania! was.
Perhaps if the guys had culled all the good songs from Discs 1 & 2 – and recorded ’em all in Nightfreak mode, they could’ve defeated the Sophomore Jinx. I know I could do with a “Talkin’ Gypsy Market Blues” that matched Bringing It All Back Home‘s freneticism, for example. But for now, I’m just waitin’ for album three and prayin’ that Skelly learns to tell his Inner Morrison to shut the hell up. . .

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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