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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Coral opens ears when it cuts loose

March 27, 2003|Dean Kuipers | Special to The Times

Anyone ducking out for a smoke after the first dozen songs in the Coral's short, intense set Tuesday at the Troubadour would have missed what the band was really about. It wasn't until the last song that its unique vision and lyrics were finally resolved.

Initially, the young English band's tightly compressed ditties hit like the literate, cabaret rock of the Doors covering Kurt Weill. This stylized attack created a strange disconnect between the poetic, personal lyrics and the music.

"Bad Man" had jumped-up swing sections. Others, such as "Calendars and Clocks," were gorgeously rendered bursts of psychedelia lifted by folky, well-sung three-part harmonies.

But with the last song, "Goodbye," the band connected with the audience and the promise of its material, cutting into the otherwise controlled performance with an extended jam that never sounded gratuitous.

The guitar solo by Bill Ryder-Jones touched on the famous figure in the Byrd's "8 Miles High" and then went off, leading the band to a huge crescendo and the desperate verse "I'd rather die than say goodbye." Any band with this level of sophistication on its first U.S. visit seems destined to deliver important music.

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