The Coral have stood peerless within the music industry for over 15 years. Never bending to trend or fashion they’ve created their own little rabbit holes for fans to follow them down. Several members have done the same with their solo albums; it’s hard to think of another band that has produced so much collectively.
Caravan, the first solo offering from keyboardist Nick Power, is an engrossing snapshot of life in a non-descript British Caravan Park. These satellites of satellites dot the radius of towns and cities up and down the country. Self-contained microcosms of society, hopefully with a bit more sun and the odd ice cream. It’s a world familiar to so many, Caravan paints a picture of its sinister underbelly where “cocaine and Vauxhall Corsas with body kits” keep people awake at night.
“Yeah, I recorded it alone, in a caravan. All the percussion you hear are played with a pair of chopsticks and a wooden spoon on the pots and pans. I had an acoustic guitar, a cheap Casio keyboard with a drum machine and a couple of harmonicas,” Nick told us recently.
Certainly a minimalist approach but it allows the melodic richness of songs like ‘Jenny Said’, ‘What I’d Give’ and ‘Time’s A Ghost’ to come to the fore. The essence of every song is brought into acute focus.
“I wanted to set myself boundaries as the songs tend to be stripped to their bare bones. As scruffy as that may be, I believe you get to the heart of a song in a more direct way,” he explains.
Only someone who came up in a band as sonically aware as The Coral could call this set of songs “scruffy”. The edges may not be polished but that’s what draws you in. Each song is a little vignette ranging in mood from reflective self-destruction (‘Hurricane’) to concerned sympathy (‘Joe’).
Across the whole record Power paints a dark, claustrophobic picture with brightness perforating the edges and bursting through in patches. Beautifully written songs rooted in folk and the empty caravan they were recorded in. Sounds pretty simple, in many ways it is, but there’s a concise complexity in characters it invokes and the world they inhabit.
Caravan feels like a record you can live in, spying on the characters that populate it. Not dissimilar to The Kinks’ seminal 1968 record The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. There’s a craft in Power’s song writing that only comes with years of devotion. His vocals throughout are assured and confident.
Caravan is a lo-fi masterpiece.
You can get your hands on a copy of Caravan free with the first 300 copies of its accompanying book here.