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Why Coral Island is The Coral's masterpiece

The Liverpool indie band's tenth studio album was released on 30 April 2021. Here's why the seaside themed album could be their career-defining record.

Nick Dale in his Blinded by the Floodlights debut reveals all.


I remember being quite taken aback when The Coral first appeared in the early-2000s. They were a bunch of young "scally" looking Scousers producing indie music that seemed vastly beyond their years.

James Skelly had a proper rockstar voice which was so noticeable on the chorus of early favourites 'Dreaming of You' and 'Goodbye' (2002). The music was also incredible, and, to their credit, no one else around sounded anything remotely like them, combining a healthy mix of garage-rock, psychedelic folk and melodic indie-pop.

In the following years, they created a very diverse catalogue of albums and after a good run of nine albums in a 20-year career we now - somehow - reach what can only be described as their masterpiece.

What makes Coral Island unique is the fact it's a double album based on a fictional seaside resort. The first part references the resort in the summer months and the second part covering the desolation of a rundown resort over the winter months.

The band have stated that this is not a concept album, just an album with a theme running through it. Whether you agree with that or not, it certainly sounds like one!

Upon dropping the needle on the first side, the first thing you notice is the narration on the album of an elder gentleman. This man happens to be none other than James and Ian Skelly’s grandad. His voice is perfect in the sections between songs where he paints a picture and outlines the mood and vision of the resort that the band are trying to portray within the music.

The voice of the narration is just perfect with so much character and personality in the delivery. It's hard not to imagine him as someone plying their trade on children’s tv back in the day.

The first track ‘Lover Undiscovered’ is just beautiful and sets the tone for the rest of the album, whilst ‘Change Your Mind’ and ‘Mist on the River’ continue the fine momentum, amongst the highlights of the album (there's quite a few!).

Listening to the record it becomes clear how melodic the songs are, with many genres of music covered. There is psychedelia, folk, indie, alternative rock and much of the music could fit into an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western.

The album just flows from song to song. The track ‘Vacancy’ is the best on the album, an incredible and wonderful Wurlitzer takes it away from veering anywhere near to garage rock.

The first part concludes with ‘Autumn Has Come’, giving a downbeat ending to this half as the end of the summer is described. It is followed by narration which covers the closing off of the pier and shutting up for the hard winter months ahead.

The second part starts with a description of a hotel bar with "vacancy" in neon flashing, discarded cigarette buts and betting slips over an empty dance floor. Later we hear about entertainers sitting under clocks that have not worked in years, reminiscing about days gone by.

Upon listening to the album it's hard not to think of places on the North Wales coast that have their best years behind them. Old arcades with aged decor and entertainers going there for one last gig. From someone who holidayed in that part of the world as a child, the nostalgia that it provides is all too real.

Coral Island is the work of a band at the very top of their game and I genuinely don’t think there's another band around who could have carried this off.

My hope is that when touring resumes, the band decide to play the album in full as I think all good concept...sorry, themed albums, deserve to be considered as one entity which needs to be heard in one sitting. The album concludes with a bit of barroom Bugsy Malone, a simply glorious finish.

It's clear that this album will be top of many people’s album of the year lists come December. Going off my numerous listens, it will certainly be near the top of mine!


Do you agree with Nick's verdict? Let us know @BFloodlights.


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