The Coral

The Coral (Deltasonic UK)Skeleton Key(Columbia)

"Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough," said the John Huston character in Chinatown. In music, the same time-plus-trash formula often leads to the next big thing.

Which brings us to the Coral, a six-piece Scouse combo, all in their late teens and very early 20s, who have a self-titled album in the U.K., available stateside now as an import. To be fair, it's amazing – loaded with hooks and over-the-top whimsy. At the very least, the album is wildly creative. And the band also has a newly released domestic EP, Skeleton Key, which is nearly as much fun. Together, these two discs shower a band that has fans and pundits on the far side of the Atlantic swimming like sharks in a swimming pool.

In terms of music, I can't help but suspect that Coral front man James Skelly and bandmates were placed as children in a locked room and fed nothing but Nuggets CDs, early Traffic, the occasional side dish of reggae and ska, and a PAL tape of the Ruling Class. From this mutant experiment, their psychedelia and garage-grunge emerged, complete with fuzz tones and Crybaby pedals and over-the-top dramatic readings, like parodies of Morrison's self-parody. Some of the songs, like "Skeleton Key," which appears on both discs, use tempo shifts that once signified a drop into the acid-cosmic unknown, like the trippier Country Joe stuff, complete with portentous organ backgrounds.

Another track, "Shadows Fall," starts out with a tasty Augustus Pablo melodica before turning blue beat, and then takes a giant step into klezmer kazoo-land like a Ladbroke Grove wedding band one spliff over the line. "Dreaming of You" threatens to play like the bop-along "My World Is Empty Without You" as performed by Dave Wakeling.

As other critics have noted, there are traces of an '80s Brit-Psyche revival here, but the Coral are much closer to the source: Roky Erickson, the Misunderstood, Eric Burdon's and Britain's answer to the MC5, the Social Deviants. Like then, there's good stuff, bad stuff, embarrassments and a few brilliant moments. Time, however, has flattened the perspective of the music of that era the way a zoom lens sacrifices depth for impact. And the impact of the Coral is simply terrific, like a Day-Glo pie in the eye.

 
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