The Coral, Astoria, London

Ordinary boys show extraordinary depth of their Mersey roots
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The Independent Culture

Noel Gallagher is among the Brit Rock aristocracy at the bar awaiting the return of his natural heirs. But where Oasis took the Beatles' blueprint as a plan for world domination, Lennon's co-citizens The Coral seem to have the Fab Four's music bred in their bones.

Noel Gallagher is among the Brit Rock aristocracy at the bar awaiting the return of his natural heirs. But where Oasis took the Beatles' blueprint as a plan for world domination, Lennon's co-citizens The Coral seem to have the Fab Four's music bred in their bones.

In fact, an astonishing array of the Sixties' most eccentric, non-conformist talents can be detected in the band's four albums to date. What marks them out as new is how natural this old music is to them.

The Coral are perhaps the first band to draw on that decade's inescapable pop motherload not as pastiche, but as their authentic roots. After 40 years, these Merseysiders are mutating Merseybeat the way McCartney played the blues.

When they materialised in 2002, The Coral nearly scooped that year's Mercury Prize. Now that their protégés, fellow Scousers and virtual replicants The Zutons, are 2004's Mercury winners, confirming a sudden fecundity in the Mersey water, the need for The Coral might already seem past. With their oldest member, the singer James Skelly, still only 24, this low-key London show tests whether these prodigies still count.

Not that The Coral care, of course. As they saunter on in casual clothes and launch into three tunes from the new album The Invisible Invasion, unheard by almost anyone here as the boys trust their songs to take care of themselves, their separation from the cults of careerism and of celebrity culture could not be more stark. Skelly's mop-top haircut and his band's Beatlesque upward slanting guitars symbolise a more innocent pop age.

Strolling the stage at slow-motion pace with their warning track "Don't Think You're the First'', nothing is done for effect. Their rumbling sea shanty "She Sings the Mourning'' confirms that fashion cannot touch them. Drawn from the Irish Sea they've known since birth, it is a fresh-minted Mersey folk song.

The Smiths-like jangle of "So Long Ago'', meanwhile, shows their heads aren't stuck in the distant past. But the mythic affectations of a Morrissey mean nothing to them. The Coral are ordinary boys, with extraordinarily hungry imaginations.

Their common pop touch is proven when a new song, "The Operator'', provokes an explosion of beer in this theatre's light beams. Along with "A Warning to the Curious'', it combines the immediacy and modesty of British pop in 1964, with the questing mysticism of 1967, and the ignorance of boundaries that defines 2005.

"You might know this old chestnut,'' Skelly suggests of their biggest hit, "Dreaming of You'', but it's greeted with barely more cheers than the new songs. All that The Coral play, after all, comes from the same source: a post-Rave, post-Britpop place where 40 years of pop sounds eternally fresh.



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