Youth was always a factor when it came to James Skelly’s group The Coral. Their sound veered between genres and eras more in line with a group of 50- somethings with huge collections; yet these were young men, singer James Skelly just 21 when their debut EP came out in 2001. The guys sure had “chops”.
You’d expect this playfulness to surface on his first album with The Intenders but, sadly, it’s absent. Here are 11 variations on heartache and loss, played out in such a lumpen, working men’s club fashion that after about five listens you’re still none-the-wiser as to which song’s which. Skelly’s certainly a craftsman, but his changes, middle-eights and – especially – the benign lyrics are so middle-of-the-road they make The Coral feel like a distant memory: pioneers from over 40 years ago, not three.
When the tempo slows, and some slight touch of oddness or intrigue returns, as on I’m A Man or What A Day, Love Undercover is mildly diverting. At best, however, this is music made purely for the sake of it: an uninspiring audio fluff. Cruel, after having previously reached such satisfying heights.