The Wirral band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves on their sixth LP.
Rob Webb 2010-07-06
How many acts put out a collection of their Greatest Hits before slowly fading away into the annals of music history? It's something of a rhetorical question, of course, because said release has traditionally marked the creative death knell for a band.
In recent times Supergrass and Oasis spring most immediately to mind as pertinent examples of this phenomena. The Coral shared stages with them both, and when the Wirral quintet (née sextet) put out their fifth album – 2007's fairly pedestrian Roots and Echoes – and followed it with a Singles Collection the following year, you'd have got decidedly speculative odds on them being the last band standing in 2010.
But you'd be quids in now: despite being a guitarist down (Bill Ryder-Jones departed after Roots and Echoes), they've regrouped admirably and made a comeback record that strives for, and indeed almost reaches, the dizzying heights of 2002's self-titled debut. With John Leckie (Radiohead, The Stone Roses) behind the desk, Butterfly House displays a focus and clarity that they've struggled to rediscover ever since their breakthrough. Crucially, too, it also sounds like they're enjoying themselves again.
Bookended by ominous Morricone-esque opener More Than a Lover (a track the band say was a watershed moment during recording) and ending on expansive, freak-out finale North Parade (After the Fair) (is that ringing opening chord a nod to A Hard Day's Night?), The Coral's sixth album doesn't look to reinvent their 60s-influenced sound as such, but it does harbour some of their better recorded moments – of which those are certainly two.
Elsewhere, Roving Jewel channels American jangle-poppers The Byrds with its quicksilver guitar lines and breezy harmonies; She's Coming Around showcases the band's playful side with nods to mariachi sounds and an unexpected double-time closing passage; and the title-track unwraps itself slowly with more glorious multi-part vocal lines before erupting in a sea of guitars.
They were never, ever going to astound us by delivering a math-rock or dubstep album as their comeback, but Butterfly House successfully arrests a worrying decline. And now they've got past the dreaded Greatest Hits phase, who'd bet against The Coral reaching a delightful dozen?