This whey-faced sextet (the eldest is 21) from Northern England notched immediate attention when its self-titled debut scored a 2002 Mercury Music Prize nomination.

This whey-faced sextet (the eldest is 21) from Northern England notched immediate attention when its self-titled debut scored a 2002 Mercury Music Prize nomination. The hoopla was justified: The Coral is a pixilated, unpredictable, and wildly eclectic work utterly unlike anything emanating from the U.K. at the moment. Fronted by guitarists/ vocalists James Skelly and Lee Southall, the band caroms recklessly from style to style, often in the course of a single song: Witness the ska-cum-jazz "Shadows Fall" or the skittering Middle Eastern Beefheart-isms of "Skeleton Key." From Motown and '60s psychedelia (Los Angeles' Love is an obvious inspiration) to sea chanteys, The Coral is a musical high-wire act that somehow never topples into excess or chaos. Risky yet always enormously entertaining, the Coral bears comparison to XTC and even—dare it be said?—Merseyside homeboys the Beatles.—CM