Album Review: The Coronas – The Long Way

By on Wednesday, 4th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Last year when lead singer of the Coronas Danny O’Reilly was explaining to RTE 2fm presenter Rick O’Shea how they never thought they would make it out of Ireland, I realised I had never really considered how bands outside America or the UK might feel like they’ve not reached their full potential or even somehow failed if they never are able to bring their music outside of their country’s borders. Having sold out countless venues at home and having already released three studio albums on their own label 3ú Records at home in Ireland, you can now certainly say the Coronas have made it out: last summer they inked a deal with UK heavyweight Island Records and if a physical gesture of their commitment was needed, the band also pulled up roots, now calling London home. I can’t help but think the name of their first album for Island, ‘The Long Way’, is a wry smile and nod to the years of graft and the lengthy journey they needed to take to get them where they are today.

While the album’s songs were written well before their signing to Island, some credit must be given to producer Eliot James, who also worked on Two Door Cinema Club‘s monster debut ‘Tourist History’ and Kaiser Chiefs‘ ‘Off With Their Heads’. Further, as you would rightly expect with the backing of a major label, the Coronas sound is much bigger and grander this time around than their last album, 2011’s ‘Closer to You’. The new LP begins confidently with heavy hitter ‘All the Others’, which peaked at #3 on the Irish Singles Chart when it was released there last May, the band’s highest charting single to date. It’s followed by the brash single ‘Just Like That’; its emotional lines “I’m not saying I want you back unless you say it first / ’cause I’ve said things just like that only to end up getting hurt” are so incredibly catchy, the desperate sadness of the words is masked. Almost. You also can’t help but chuckle at the hoovers in love in its accompanying promo; who knew the secret lives of our cleaning machines were so complicated?

‘The Long Way’ is not a complete downer. However, one can’t really escape the feeling that some of the more upbeat numbers are a bit forced. ‘How This Goes’ sounds like a cardio workout at a music festival near you this summer, played at rapid speed and replete with echoing whoa-ohs. ‘Get Loose’ recalls the happy-go-lucky style of Jason Mraz, its bouncy rhythm certain to put a smile on your face, if not change your world. Is this what happens to a band after they sign their life away to a major? I try not to think about Maroon 5’s transformation after the ‘Harder to Breathe’ era.

Somewhat ironically, it’s the tracks that see the Coronas returning home, to the feeling they created on their first three homespun albums that feel the most genuine, as if you’re looking right into their hearts. ‘What a Love’ smartly utilises understated instrumentation to highlight O’Reilly’s warm vocals, which lift and open up in the bridge, as he encourages all to “choose the kind [of love] that gets you safe / someone to share the blame, but share the great…yeah it should inspire you”. ‘At the Same Time’ is my vote for clear standout, chronicling a painful breakup where “we both walked out from the same fight / but I never thought we’d give up at the same time”. While there is comfort to be found in the pop melody, with joyful piano and synths moving the song forward as if in parallel to be sympathetic to the protagonist’s need to move forward with his life, there’s no denying the underlying hurt (most likely the breakup of O’Reilly’s relationship with Irish tv presenter Laura Whitmore).

When Kodaline first appeared on the scene in 2012, a lot of critics were saying they’d be the Irish Coldplay, but Kodaline’s mates the Coronas could very well be next in line to the piano stadium rock/pop throne. Another heartwrenching standout ‘If I Gave to Someone Else’ is a worthy competitor to ‘All I Want’ as O’Reilly asks miserably, “if I gave myself to someone else / would it hurt just a little less?” as Dave McPhillips’ bright guitar line throughout lightens the tune up considerably. With its melancholic moments, ‘The Long Way’ can be a tough listen, but the reward is in hearing the beginning stages of a band well on their way to becoming international stars.

7.5/10

‘The Long Way Home’ is out next Monday, the 9th of March, on Island Records. Catch the Coronas on their 2-week UK tour that begins on the 20th of March in Leeds.

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