Albums: The Coral, Royal Blood, Pet Shop Boys , Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis
A CONCEPT double album about an imaginary holiday resort with an accompanying book – not what I was necessarily expecting from The Coral. But the band from the small Merseyside seaside town Hoylake have been inspired by 1960s concept albums by The Kinks and Small Faces and have delivered in style. It is divided into two parts, and Welcome to Coral Island opens with a spoken word introduction by Ian Murray, the 85-year-old grandfather of singer and guitarist James Skelly and drummer Ian Skelly. He describes a place where “you can fall in love” amid the piers, promenades and boardwalks, before new single Lover Undiscovered shows they've not lost their knack for writing tunes you feel you've known all your life. Mist On The River and Watch You Disappear add psychedelia, while Golden Age has a classic Coral feel. The album is influenced by 1950s crooners as well as 1960s bands, a move that works well with the character-based songs, depicting the off-season when the holidaymakers have gone.
ROYAL Blood have undergone something of a radical transformation since the release of 2017's How Did We Get So Dark? Put it down to the global pandemic, bass-wielding frontman Mike Kerr going sober or the influence of friend-cum-producer Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age. Whatever it was, it works. The Brighton duo have shifted their heavy rock sound towards something redolent of the Bee Gees' high camp, all while retaining the bite of Led Zeppelin. Throw in huge, bustling synth lines that wouldn't look out of place on a Daft Punk album and overprocessed drums that scream 80s melodrama and the formula is complete. Kerr has clearly exorcised some demons in recent years (listen to the lyrics of Trouble's Coming for proof) and his ruminations lend a dark undercurrent to proceedings. But he matches them with 11 tracks of gorgeous, inventive rock and roll, dusted with handclaps and infectious choruses. Typhoons is a winner.
Pet Shop Boys
Discovery: Live In Rio 1994
THE pandemic has forced Pet Shop Boys gigs to be postponed for a year or more. But UK ticket-holders – who have another 12 months before they can see the duo perform new songs from their latest album Hotspot – can feast on this past gem. The Rio concert was previously only available on VHS cassette but now fans can enjoy two CDs and a DVD of the band's first energetic performance in Brazil and the crowd's delighted reaction. There is a joyous version of I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing, a lively Paninaro and a noisy crowd singalong to Always On My Mind. The band mix One In A Million with Culture Beat's Mr Vain, Left To My Own Devices with Corona's Rhythm Of The Night, and It's A Sin with the Gloria Gaynor anthem I Will Survive. Turn it up loud, sing along and jump around – even if restrictions mean you're still only allowed to dance at home.
Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis
She Walks In Beauty
DURING the pandemic, listeners seeking light relief have flocked to the comforting aural blanket of disco and the tender, unchallenging sound of pop. Marianne Faithfull, now 74, clearly didn't get the memo. The singer, actress and former muse of Sir Mick Jagger's 22nd album is a grand affair full of ruminations on death. Faithfull has teamed with frequent collaborator Warren Ellis to put poetry by Shelley, Keats, Byron, Wordsworth and Tennyson to music. Her husky voice is well suited to the task – each line perfectly enunciated in the Queen's English, sometimes cracking into an emotive croak. She imbues every line with meaning. The fact she spent three weeks in a London hospital last April being treated for coronavirus symptoms only makes it more poignant. Ellis, best known as one of the Bad Seeds, offers up perfectly balanced backing tracks, all ethereal strings and pulsing synths, with the help of Nick Cave, Brian Eno and cellist Vincent Segal. A beautiful thing and worth the time.