Psychedelia is a strange path to tread, leading bands further down a rabbit hole of invention and mystery, and for many obscurity and confusion.
This, however, was never true of The Coral. They always seemed to have an ability to appreciate the beauty and insanity within this form with a laser like clarity. But, after a break of six years, are they still as focused?
Put simply, no. That laser-like focus upon psychedelia is gone, yet not because they can no longer get it up, instead because they’ve decided to cast their gaze far further afield – to prog, psyche, hard rock and beyond.
The band’s chameleon like skills have only grown over the intervening years since ‘Butterfly House‘, and they are throwing everything into the pot here on ‘Distance Inbetween‘. Opener ‘Connector‘ sets the tone, a powerhouse performance and one of their best tracks to date. With hints of Led Zeppelin sprinkled liberally throughout, you get everything from ‘Kashmir‘ and ‘When The Levee Breaks” to ‘The Rain Song‘, all done with a modern twist, say Kula Shaker covered by the Secret Machines (so maybe not completely modern).
From here on out all bets are off. There’s everything on display, it’s a rollercoaster ride. ‘White Bird‘ is a wonderful updating (though not a cover) of It’s a Beautiful Day’s track of the same name. ‘Chasing The Tail Of a Dream‘ is dripping with Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’s eastern psyche stylings, rediscovered like a lost pyramid full of treasure.
‘Million Eyes‘ is a lightweight pun over a heavyweight stomp, similar to the Electric Prunes’ ‘I Had Too Much tTo Dream Last Night‘, while ‘Beyond the Sun’s fantasia of colours comes courtesy of listening to a lot (maybe too much) of ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King‘ and ‘Return To Fantasy‘ by Uriah Heep, all with Baroque flavours – which is not something you hear very much these days.
And this swirling kaleidoscope of influences continues unabated. ‘It’s You’ is a disco track by The Doors. Jim would have taken it all too far, and that would have been great in and of itself with wheels off and going everywhere as it hit the wall hard, but The Coral’s skillful control throughout makes this fascinating regardless. ‘She Runs The River‘ has echoes, reverb and so much of The Beatles’ ‘Because‘ from ‘Abbey Road‘ that it’s wonderfully painful.
From start to finish this album is a lesson in rock history, and not just old school as ‘Holy Revelation‘ and ‘Fear Machine‘ – two of the best tracks – take from today. The former is Eagles of Death Metal on a Pink Floyd trip, while the latter sounds like a long lost Black Keys track, and a great one at that. James Skelly‘s vocals are scarily similar, scarily primal and primally brilliant.
Throughout ‘Distance Inbetween’, The Coral leave no stone left unturned. Everything they try is natural, unforced and wonderfully detailed. It’s fascinating to listen to. While Skelly’s vocals are often restrained, tempered even, the music is pushed to its total extreme. This is far heavier psyche than The Coral usually put out.
They’ve taken the powerful pace and potential of their self-titled debut and bent and warped it to its limits. Stripped of all of its commercialism and ‘pop’ sensibilities, ‘Distance Inbetween’ hits hard like ‘Shadows Fall‘ on ‘roids. It’s a 1970’s rock wet dream – even down to the Led Zep tinny string synth sound – and just as dirty and brilliant as that sounds.
So say it with us: “Does anybody remember laughter?”.