An album for long, meandering summer afternoons, Magic and Medicine is a quirky and...
Daniel Pike 2002
An album for long, meandering summer afternoons, Magic and Medicine is a quirky and imaginative bundle of joy.
True to past form, The Coral are able to employ stylistic kleptomania without resorting to derivation or cowardly irony. "Don't Think You're The First", smacks of tasty spaghetti western with a small dollop of surfy sauce. Deep echo guitar is supplemented by melancholy violin in "Milkwood Blues". A 'jam-session' feel pervades throughout as the many influences just keep on coming.
With endearing hyperactive childishness, most tracks refuse to stand still. A few of The Coral's musical offspring fidget stylistically yet fail to actually go anywhere. This is annoying. The chaotic lack of focus and direction on "Talkin' Gypsey Market Blues" just hurts your head. But for the bulk of the album, you can sit back and enjoy every deviation of a tumultuous ride.
The greatest focus is achieved in the story-telling of "Liezah" and "Bill McCai". The plaintive longing of the former is backed by finger-picked Simon and Garfunkel guitars with added bounce. Key changes herald rolling black cloud mood shifts. "Bill McCai" is perhaps the most musically upbeat treatment of suicide you are ever likely to hear. It is incredible that a band of 18-22 year olds can produce such an accomplished lament to decaying dreams, lost youth and the sheer terror of advancing years.
Any album that incorporates dreamy seaside Wurlitzers, brass, funk bass, strings and harmonica plus skiffle, folk, Super Furry Animal school psychedelia (despite the band's denials), beat, blues and more (often in the same song) should really be considered a novelty record. However, The Coral are more than just a wacky bunch of cheap tricksters. When their approach works, it works well. What's more, the impressive breadth of their influences and repertoire suggests there is much more magic to come.