The Coral is the 2002 debut album by The Coral, a British rock band of Liverpudlian pedigree. I use the term 'rock band' in a broad sense, as The Coral are one of those bands that resist definition by their musical diversity. Hopefully the content of this writeup will aid the reader to form an idea of how the band's music sounds.

As with debut albums in general, the details behind the album are basically the story of the genesis of the band. Therefore, what is included here is a biography of The Coral from their inception through to the time of release of The Coral.

The Coral are the latest in a list of great bands from the Liverpool area, following on from The Beatles in the 60s, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes in the 80s and The La's and Cast in the 90s. The Coral hail from Hoylake, a village in the borough of Wirral, across the River Mersey from Liverpool.

The Coral are:

As an example of where their heads were at while recording their debut material, The Coral collectively listed for the NME their favourite albums in October 2001:

On their debut album, The Coral meld together their many influences, including Merseybeat (The Beatles), Californian psychedelia (The Doors, Love, The Beach Boys, Quicksilver Messenger Service), acid rock (Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart), British psychedelia (Nirvana, Kaleidoscope, Pink Floyd, The Action, The Kinks), ska (Madness, The Specials) and post-60s UK psychedelia (The Beta Band, The Teardrop Explodes). Can you see a pattern forming?

The Coral is an astonishingly competent debut album. Swirling keyboards combine with tastefully effects-laden guitars, emulating the best of the psychedelic end of 60s music, but still sounding contemporary and original. James Skelly's vocals belie his slim frame and age, sounding guttural and bluesy, and in keeping with Liverpool's status as a seaport, his lyrics burst with salty, seafaring imagery.

Genesis/Evolution

The Coral formed in 1996 while still in their early teens. Inspired by The Beatles' Anthology to begin playing drums and bass respectively, Ian Skelly and Paul Duffy – both 14 at the time, and students at Hilbery High School in West Kirkby – began jamming together, initially calling themselves Hive.

Nick Ryder-Jones joined next, on guitar, and was followed by Ian Skelly's vocalist brother James, who previously had his mind set on becoming a hardcore techno DJ. James Skelly facilitated band rehearsals in the basement of the Skelly family's Liverpool pub, and wrote the first song for the fledgling group, "Billy Much".

They briefly changed their name to Oracle, inspiration coming from a brand of mouthwash, but soon fiddled with the word and came up with The Coral. Keyboardist Nick Power was recruited from a rival band, and Lee Southall joined, providing a second guitar.

Alan Wills – who formerly drummed with Liverpool bands Top and Shack – was at this point forming the label Deltasonic, and signed The Coral. Wills encouraged the band to hone their skills and songs, and they spent a year writing songs, with five members of the band earning an income working in the Skellys' pub.

EPs and Singles

1000 copies of The Coral's debut, a CD EP entitled Shadows Fall, were released in July 2001. Track listing:

  1. Shadows Fall
  2. Simon Diamond
  3. A Sparrow's Song

The Shadows Fall EP made it into the UK Top 30 singles chart. On the strength of the EP, the NME declared The Coral the best new English band in Autumn 2001. The song itself lopes along through the first verse, sounding like a sea shanty with ensemble vocals, before picking up speed, going double-time in the instrumental interlude, then shifting back a gear again for the second verse.

The second CD EP, The Oldest Path, was released in December 2001. Only 2000 copies were made available. Track listing:

  1. The Oldest Path
  2. God Knows
  3. Short Ballad
  4. Flies

The next release was a CD EP entitled Skeleton Key, which was released in April 2002. Track listing:

  1. Skeleton Key
  2. Dressed Like A Cow
  3. Darkness
  4. Sheriff John Brown

"Skeleton Key" is a wicked frenzy of jiggling guitars over more layered guitars and keyboards, with team-handled vocals snarling out the words. A wonderfully ramshackle affair.

Finally, promoting the forthcoming debut album, The Coral's first single proper, Goodbye, was released on July 8, 2002. It was released in three formats:

  • CD1 track listing:
    1. Goodbye
    2. Good Fortune
    3. Travelling Circus
    4. Goodbye [video]
  • CD2 track listing:
    1. Goodbye
    2. Dressed Like A Cow [live – XFM session]
    3. Goodbye [live – XFM session]
    4. The Coral Movie [video documentary]
  • Numbered 7" vinyl track listing:
    1. Goodbye
    2. Good Fortune
    3. Travelling Circus

The Coral

At the time of The Coral's recording, James Skelly was the oldest member, at 21. Bill Ryder-Jones was the youngest, at 18. The average age of the band was 19.

The album was produced by Ian Broudie (who also fronted Lightning Seeds, produced Echo and the Bunnymen, and was a member of Big In Japan), who was knocked out by The Coral's demos and asked for the privilege of producing the band.

The Coral was released by Sony Music UK – who had licensed the Deltasonic label – on July 25, 2002, on CD and vinyl. It charted at Number 5 in the UK album chart, and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Columbia released The Coral in the US in early 2003. Track listing:

  1. Spanish Main (1:53)
  2. I Remember When (3:39)
  3. Shadows Fall (3:29)
  4. Dreaming Of You (2:21)
  5. Simon Diamond (2:29)
  6. Goodbye (4:02)
  7. Waiting for the Heartaches (4:04)
  8. Skeleton Key (3:03)
  9. Wildfire (2:45)
  10. Badman (3:04)
  11. Calendars and Clocks (11:58)
  • After "Calendars and Clocks", there is two minutes' silence, and then an unlisted full-length track. This explains the listed length of track 11.
  • "Spanish Main", "I Remember When", "Dreaming Of You" and "Waiting for the Heartaches" were written by James Skelly.
  • "Simon Diamond", "Goodbye", "Skeleton Key", "Badman" and "Calendars and Clocks" were written by James Skelly and Nick Power.
  • "Wildfire" was written by Nick Power.
  • "Shadows Fall" was written by The Coral.

After the release of The Coral, The Coral released one more single associated with the album, Dreaming Of You, on October 7, 2002. Like Goodbye, it was released in three formats:

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