The Judges Discuss: The Coral, “Butterfly House”

Album Number Four on the Uncut Music Award 2010 shortlist. Here's what the judges said about The Coral's "Butterfly House"...

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Album Number Four on the Uncut Music Award 2010 shortlist. Here’s what the judges said about The Coral’s “Butterfly House”…

Allan Jones: This was a favourite of both Bob Harris and Chris Difford, although neither of them is here to champion it, but I think you’re quite enthusiastic too, Danny.


Danny Kelly: First of all, I want to make a confession, and that is that The Coral are my favourite group working today, and I say that fully in the knowledge that hardly anyone else likes them. They’ve been accused of making the same record over and over again, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I came to this on the back of thinking that their previous album, Roots & Echoes, was a brilliant record, my favourite of that particular year. It took me a little while longer to get to love Butterfly House, but I do love it.

I mentioned earlier about the number of records on this list that were in some way linked to struggle. This band are struggling with the fact that they make these records, everyone tells them that they’re great, and then nothing happens for them. So what they’ve done on this record, what they’ve decided to do about the fact that they’re struggling, is to do nothing about it all. Well, that’s not strictly true, they’ve sort of added a folk element to their basic 60s template.

I love the fact that something as arguably unfashionable as Simon & Garfunkel starts turning up in songs like “Roving Jewel” or “Walking In The Winter”. But ultimately there’s nothing really different about this record, it’s just another tremendous Coral record. If Bob was here he’d probably tell me that there are million things different about it, and I wish he was, but all I can say is that I think it’s a beautiful record.


Phil Manzanera: The first track [“More Than A Lover”] is incredibly catchy, every time I put it on I’m convinced I’ve heard it before many years ago. That’s partly my problem with it; it’s a great production by John Leckie, great songwriting, I love the pastoral elements, but for me, having grown up listening to The Byrds and The Beatles, it just doesn’t have the same resonance. It’s beautifully done, it’s possibly near perfect, but it sounds too much like a period piece, and I’d rather listen to the real thing. It’s very difficult for me to praise these guys doing this kind of music, and I know that sounds terribly unfair.

Tony Wadsworth: I’m sort of with Phil on this one. I think John Leckie has done a really good job, the Byrds influences, particularly Gene Clark, are writ large, but I would rather just listen to the originals. I don’t want to be too down on it, but I feel that other people have done this better previously and I don’t find it distinctive enough.

Mark Cooper: I suppose the question is whether The Coral have done it better. I think The Coral live in a world of their own, admittedly it’s a world of the 60s but it’s a 60s that I particularly like. They remind me of The Small Faces around the time of “Itchycoo Park”, when bands were getting psychedelic but still writing three-minute pop songs, and they have a kind of jugband expansive feel about them. I think The Coral are very self-sufficient; they’ve been on our show Later… three or four times, and they never talk to anybody! They don’t give a fuck, and I love that about them.

They turn up and they leave, they don’t really want to make friends, they just want to ‘do’ their world, and I think this record is like that. It’s very self-contained, very beautiful, very likeable, but I’m not sure that it’s the best Coral record. It’s perhaps one of the most succinct ones, though.

Tony: My problem with it is that I didn’t get the impression there was any fun going on.

Mark: Yeah, it’s a bit mournful. But I’m so glad they exist, I don’t think there are many other British groups like them, and I hope they keep going for a long time. I hope people do cherish them, I’m really glad this record is in the Top Eight because hopefully it will shine a bit of light on them. It’s hard for groups like them who’ve been dropped by a major label and have to try to pick themselves up again.

Danny: The news from inside the camp is that the biggest change now that they’re no longer on a major is that they can no longer indulge the taste they developed for fresh lobster! I suspect that’s way off the menu these days.

Hayden Thorpe: I admire them and find myself frustrated by them in equal measure. They approach what they do as an art, which is very admirable, they obviously work very hard at achieving their sound, but because it’s so accurate it’s almost pastiche, it’s almost a cartoon. The opening chord on the last song [“North Parade”] I think must be exactly the same as “A Hard Day’s Night”.

Tony: It is; G6.

Hayden: There’s a lot of moments like that, where the sound is very deliberate, very precise, but it’s just a bit too generic to really get my blood flowing.

Mark: I’m not sure how contrived or academic they are about things, I get the feeling that this is just the world they live in.

Allan: It’s like a sort of fantasy bubble for them; they’re focusing on a period time that they obviously didn’t live through themselves, but they’ve got a very vivid idea of what it was like. But there groups they remind me of less historically, like Shack, very powerful but not likely to get much further than where they already are.

Phil: One of the biggest problems for an artist is that you have all these influences, and rather than just regurgitate them you have to bring something new to the party. You take those influences and you add a new dimension, or at least you ought to. If I was the producer I’d be saying to them, yes this is all very good but what’s new?


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