The Coral - Magic & Medicine - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Coral - Magic & Medicine

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:2003-07-28

On Magic and Medicine, Hoylake's the Coral call an end to the wild-eyed pirate pantomime, snip away at some of their most deranged edges, and confirm that there are great songs hiding beneath all the screaming and skulduggery. A wise decision? Generally, yes, because where on their debut it was evident they'd assimilated much of the rabid complexity of their truly esoteric influences--everything from Captain Beefheart to Herb Alpert--on Magic and Medicine, the key tracks are more typically conventional: the bare-floorboards acoustic strum of "Pass It On", where frontman James Skelly proves his croaky Scouse lungs are capable of achieving a warm soulfulness; or "Liezah", a sweet, cantering love song that's all the better for its simplicity. These jaunty Merseybeat numbers never regress into the stagnant trad-rock doldrums once frequented by the likes of Cast, chiefly because the Coral's love for grand fictions remains intact. Mind you, the juvenile yarns about marauding pirates that characterised The Coral have been replaced by new, darker fables: that of "Bill McCai", an aging commuter who longs to be "that boy again", but closes the song by hanging himself--a grisly fate that the band, rather uncharitably, don't seem especially sad about. --Louis Pattison

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