It wouldn’t take much convincing to make some uninitiated music fan believe that the Coral was one of the best bands of the late ’60s. Their sound, you could say, captured the essence of Britain’s transition from the ’60s to the ’70s.
And oh, you’d be a tricky one, because the Coral aren’t as old as they sound. Perhaps taking a note from the legion of bands echoing bygone eras of rock – the White Stripes being the foremost of which – the Coral has ditched the hodgepodge of alternative, indie and ska stylings characteristic of their self-titled American debut. Instead, each track on their new release, Magic and Medicine, recalls the founding fathers of bluesy British rock, like the Animals or even the Kinks.
This retrograde musical movement doesn’t detract from Magic and Medicine, however. Rather, the Coral has proved that the tried and true makes a damn fine blueprint for the new. Of the album’s 12 tracks, “Don’t Think You’re the First” is easily the most successful. Rich in instrumentation and evocative of the yearning-for-meaning-but-still-finding-time-to-dance spirit of the late ’60s, this track could easily reside next to the hits of the bands the Coral emulates.
Other tracks work as well. The pleasantly psychedelic “Milkwood Blues” plays the lounge music Timothy Leary would have composed, had lounge music been Mr. Leary’s thing. And “Liezah” is a sweet ode to a girl who apparently can’t spell her name.
The only songs from Magic and Medicine that disappoint, oddly enough, are the first and last ones. “In the Forest” drones, while the thin “Confessions of A.D.D.D.” ends the album reminding the listener that he/she spent money on ’60s mock-rock and not the real thing.
Quibbles aside, Magic and Medicine offers some golden oldies that never were. Just shuffle the tracks before you listen.
[Drew Mackie better pray he doesn’t end up next to the Ramseys on Hollywood Squares.]