Record Review - 2 March 05 2003

The sound of kids at play is appealing. But when it belies age and experience, the tendency is to reach for the genius handle. And like Gomez before them in 1998, The Coral's wild-eyed 21-and-under zeal for psychedelic pastiche has earned them panting praise in the British press and an affirmation of sorts with a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Prize last year.

The group's self-titled album is a befuddling, bewitching affair with an MTV-sized attention span for style that, like Zappa or Beefheart before them, is only limited by technical skill. And in this case, The Coral doesn't quite have the studied chops of the best art-prog bands, so it bridges the gap with an abundance of hooks and enthusiasm. With such a disparate range — ska, Brit-pop, Beach Boys harmonies, and the wackier fringes of Merseybeat for starters — it's hard to believe anyone in the band has the same record collection, let alone was able to find a like- minded group of people to play it with.

Of course, these kind of exotic adventures in rock can end up self-indulgent on the geeky side of Trout Mask Replica. But The Coral's naivety propels them to the barriers rather than over them, a precious stasis that ambition rarely forgives more than once.

The Coral plays eleven50 Wed., March 12.