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CD Review – The Coral “Magic and Medicine”

The Coral
Magic and Medicine

While Magic and Medicine isn’t this month’s itinerary to mainstream success, The Coral’s creative genealogy has come into focus on its second long player.

By inferring that this UK sextet has conspicuously borrowed from an antiqued zeitgeist, the listener is freed to learn that James and Ian Skelly, Nick Power, Bill Rhyder-Jones, Lee Southall and Paul Duffy have delivered a basket woven underwater by the likes of Ray Manzarek, The Faces, and some participants in the Chocolate Watchband.

The Faces are seemingly the first order of influence upon hearing the de facto album opener, “Liezah,” even though “In the Forest,” with its organ garnishes, actually holds the position of track one, albeit as a different sounding song compared to the rest of the album.

“Liezah” opens the aural palette even wider while being third in line. As the album pulls itself along, the expectations of any potential fan are both created and defied.

Those expectations are tied to the hope that any new music is worth the time invested in the listening experience.

After all, any band worth its weight in versions of “Stephanie Says” or “Sister Ray” (both by the Velvet Underground) probably hopes that variety and ingenuity rest somewhere behind any wall of sound.

Fortunately, The Coral does not avert the determinist ‘retro’ trap.

Even though any trend or creative path is bound to be recycled, Magic pays no mind to such trade-offs as profitability or overreaching into mediocrity.

Case in point: “Confessions of A.D.D.D.” begins in sketched territory, and, after nearly six minutes, signs off with the question of “Who is to blame/ for the death of these days?”

While that is not exactly pointing the finger at Cam’ron or Coldplay, it is an inkling of how different The Coral is from the remainder of the music world.

That difference is afforded by an over-the-shoulder look at several golden ages of music.

It is worth sitting down with an album when instrumentation and lyrical content hold up two halves of a vaunted whole — not a masterpiece, but a momentary treasure — that beguiles the ear.

With much new music though, any enjoyable qualities are trumped by the ‘popular’ archetype: novel, radio-friendly, and generally acceptable.

To counteract the resulting trash, one is forced to turn back the clock with material that is bound in song and not in sales figures.

As a modern-day update, Magic and Medicine does have its merits. Through its twelve tracks, a supple hippie blanket for the ears is unfolded, notwithstanding shopworn riffs and melodies.

Even though there is unexpected, metaphysical time travel involved, becoming acquainted with this segment of The Coral’s oeuvre thus far is a thoroughly modern pleasure.

Contact Adrian Dowe at