Things are pretty much as you would expect them to be on the Coral's fourth album as all the usual pieces are in place: vocalist James Skelly still channels the voice of Ian McCullough, the guitars of Skelly and Bill Ryder-Jones still sparkle and shine, and the band is still inventive and interesting. What is different about The Invisible Invasion is the stripped-down and focused sound courtesy of producers Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley (of Portishead). Thankfully no elements of trip-hop show up; instead, they give the songs some rhythmic focus by getting a tight and live drum sound and scale back the often overly ornate arrangements of the first two albums to mostly just guitars, bass, and drums. If the batch of songs the band came up with were at all dull, this approach might have been deadly (as it proved on the somewhat forgettable Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker). Luckily the songs here are among the best they have written and are quite varied as well, ranging from the bouncily acoustic "So Long Ago" to the moody (with a great chorus) "Cripples Crown," the insistent "The Operator" to the musically lovely, lyrically melancholy "In the Morning." Where the group once seemed intent on cramming every song with everything they could fit, the new focus allows the songs to breathe more, at times even reaching levels of emotional depth that didn't seem in the cards before. "Far from the Crowd" with its quietly galloping rhythms and beautiful vocal harmonies is one example; the achingly sad "Late Afternoon" (which is one of the few songs to prominently feature keyboards) is another. More depth, better production, stellar songs performed with high levels of vigor and commitment -- it adds up to the group's best album to date. Despite a work rate that might burn out a lesser group, the Coral show no signs of going away anytime soon and if they can keep making records this good, lovers of tuneful and intelligent pop music should be very glad.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra