Album Review of 'Singles Collection Mysteries and Rarities' released through Deltasonic.
As underrated artists of the past decade go, few can fall into the same category as The Coral for making consistently good records without ever really achieving the commercial success their wares deserve. Not many bands can wholeheartedly stand up and call themselves original whilst still managing to keep a straight face, but for The Coral, from the moment their 'Shadows Fall EP' landed amidst a sea of nu metal and acoustic drudgery in the summer of 2001, to their frankly confusing yet ultimately show-stealing performances alongside Andrew WK and Lostprophets on the following year's NME tour, their work has remarkably managed to retain a unique, timeless feel that no matter how hard critics try, is impossible to categorise by any specific genre.
Band members have come and gone over the years; guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones on more than one occasion (he is at this moment in time "in absentia") yet throughout they've managed to remain credible, if slightly enigmatic, while frontman James Skelly's reputation as a producer steadily grows accordingly.
It's sad to say then that each of their four albums has shifted considerably less in unitary measures than its predecessor with every passing release, and even their most recent tour last autumn in support of most recent long player 'Roots And Echoes' seemed pretty lacklustre compared to the excitable and raucous affairs of previous live shows.
Bearing that in mind, it was always going to be somewhat inevitable that their next record would be a compilation of their singles. What is more astounding however, in light of their seemingly omnipresent status as a cult band, is just how many of these songs have actually achieved chart positions, and in the process of doing so become regular staples of many a radio station's daytime playlist.
The first CD, 'Singles Collection', pretty much does as it says on the packet. Fourteen of the band's 45s, from 'Shadows Fall' through to the current 'Being Somebody Else', that each highlight just what an exemplary pop band The Coral are, as well as being unconventional in what they do too. Minor gripes aside, the only disappointment here is that they've chosen to omit early singles 'The Oldest Path' and live favourite (and some would say their most ambitious four minutes to date) 'Skeleton Key', but beggars can't be choosers and there's plenty of undeniable quality here to get stuck into.
The second CD, 'Mysteries and Rarities' is where the real buzz of excitement lies here. Comprising nineteen tracks in total, most of which have never been previously released, this accompaniment to the singles compilation gives a fascinating insight into their influences and inspirations, combining early demo recordings with some innovative and somewhat unexpected cover versions - The Everly Brothers' 'Bye Bye Love' and Harry Nilsson's 'Everybody's Talking At Me' spring to mind here - that at least paint some kind of picture, no matter how fuzzy in places, of The Coral's lofty ambitions.
If this is to be their epitaph, then both of these CDs are a must-own for anyone with a passing interest in The Wirral's finest, although something tells me this won't be The Coral's final chapter just yet.