The Coral – Sea of Mirrors
Having achieved wide critical success creating the brilliant double concept album, Coral Island, The Coral have continued to deploy this method on 11th album Sea of Mirrors. The creative notion here is a “surreal Italian spaghetti western soundtrack” – far from the disused fairground inspiration for their acclaimed previous release, but it still contains glimmers of what makes the Mersey five-piece Liverpool’s best band since The Beatles.
Despite promotional references to Sergio Leone, brass instrument blasts are not the driving force to any of the songs. Instead, many are enriched with the robust string arrangements of Sean O’Hagan which, to their credit, feel more Eleanor Rigby than Ennio Morricone. Once again, though, it means the guitar solos of Paul Molloy are sidelined. On a thematic level, their inclusion would probably be too incongruent with the album’s concept, but it feels as if letting the dexterous guitarist loose on occasion would have stopped O’Hagan’s otherwise wondrous string arrangements from having to work hard to get the songs stuck in listeners’ heads – something they are not always able to achieve.
Where the record does succeed, though, is on tracks that contain quintessential Coral traits. Recent release That’s Where She Belongs sees the band craft another trademark psych-pop beauty, invigorated by the strings rather than reliant on them. Hauntingly sonorous harmonies ring out in the chorus of the Love-inspired Cycles of the Seasons, and warm, hazy vocals lull the listener on the bossa nova-influenced Dream River.
Unfortunately, those gems are so lustrous that they outshine the less memorable moments on the collection. Even obtaining the lauded Cillian Murphy for a spoken word segment on closer Oceans Apart does nothing to prohibit an anticlimactic ending. Indeed, the weaker tracks such as this, including the leaden Faraway Worlds and Sea of Mirrors, create a notable imbalance that makes the second side of the LP or latter songs on the album dwarf the unmemorable songs clustered in the first six of the playlist.
As such, Sea of Mirrors does not match its wonderful predecessor, but it contains just enough highlights for it not to be unfairly maligned and sit comfortably in what is, and will probably always be, an impressive back catalogue.
Sea of Mirrors is released on 8th September 2023. For further information or to order the album visit The Coral’s website here.
Watch the video for the single That’s Where She Belongs here: