Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Real Tuesday Weld’s Stephen Coates wows the critics, prepares for the release of his Tin Pan Alley explorations of drugs, death and spirituality.

“Imagine an English - speaking Serge Gainsbourg rolling around Tin Pan Alley with synthesizer in hand.” – The New Yorker

“Pairing Portishead’s dark theatrics with Serge Gainsbourg’s dirty-old-man mirth, Coates’ melancholic take on love is devilishly good!” – Wired

The first thing that strikes you about any album by Stephen Coates (aka The Real Tuesday Weld) is the fact that every element in his compositions seems to be drawn from sources many decades old. The second thing that strikes you is that his music sounds completely new.

For Coates, the breakthrough in his professional journey came in the form of a pair of surreal dreams in which he was visited by the legendary English music hall singer Al Bowlly and the late actress Tuesday Weld. These experiences convinced him to focus on a career in music and eventually led to the recording of an EP (The Valentine EP), which would be followed shortly by the full-length When Cupid Meets Psyche.

His sophomore album and debut on Six Degrees is a deeply complex and lovely full-length CD titled I, Lucifer. The album is a conceived soundtrack to Glen Duncan’s (Coates’ friend and former flatmate) book of the same name about the Devil’s take on humanity.

Coates’s follow-up release on Six Degrees, The Return of The Clerkenwell Kid, continued to develop what Coates has come to call his “antique beat” sound, putting modern technology to the task of creating new music out of a kaleidoscopic array of old sound sources. The sound of The Return of The Clerkenwell Kid was somewhat different from that of its predecessor, but the modus operandi remained basically the same and no one would ever mistake it for anything other than a Real Tuesday Weld album.

Which brings us to his latest, and anxiously awaited, album for the Six Degrees label. The London Book of The Dead may sound at first like a startlingly morose title, but in fact it’s more whimsically humorous than morbid. It refers to the Bardo Thodol (or Tibetan Book of The Dead), which describes the passage of the soul from the end of one life to the beginning of another.

“I thought it would be funny if there were a book like that for the English,” says Coates. “The album felt like that to me – a way of moving from one state to another, and all set against the backdrop of this city.”

Amongst the whimsy and humor are lyrical concerns drifting between such weighty topics as death, religious faith, honesty, drugs, and disease. The songs are informed in part by Coates’s own recent passage through several significant events: “Last year I became a father, and then two weeks later my own father died,” he says. “So I was in this kind of psychic spin between birth and death, and this album came out of that in some way.”

The Real Tuesday Weld’s music has fascinated more than just listeners and critics – it has also drawn the attention of major advertisers, and has been licensed to accompany ads for Cherry Coke (you may have seen the commercial in which cherries fall from the sky onto a bewildered but eventually delighted urban crowd, while Coates’s “I Love the Rain” plays in the background) and for TV shows like Weeds (Showtime), Gilmore Girls (WB) and Nip/Tuck (FX). All of this speaks to not only to Coates’s finely wrought sense of irony, but also to his “anything goes” musical approach: asked about his often unusual instrumental choices, he responds, “banjo, kazoo, potato peeler, you name it – I’ll stick anything in.”

The London Book of The Dead is just one more example of how a wildly open attitude and a slightly mystical bent can result in a distinctly personal and wonderfully warm musical personality – one that uses technology enthusiastically and happily turns it against itself to create something that sounds more deeply human than most of the music made by analog means elsewhere.

“…oddball electronica-goes-Tin Pan Alley... a hit of aural Ecstasy with a champagne chaser.” – W Magazine

“With one foot in Tin Pan Alley, one in electro-jazz and a third unspecified appendage dangling somewhere in the vicinity of '60s French pop, The Real Tuesday Weld's Stephen Coates scrapes his magnetic whisper across a variety of whip-smart, sardonically lovelorn ditties.” – Paste

The London Book of The Dead Tracklisting:
Release Date: August 27th, 2007
01. Blood Sugar Love
02. The Decline and Fall of The Clerkenwell Kid
03. It's A Wonderful Li(f)e
04. Cloud Cuckooland
05. Kix
06. Love Sugar Blood
07. I Loved London
08. I Believe
09. Song For William
10. Waltz For One
11. Ruth Roses and Revolvers
12. Dorothy Parker Blue
13. Last Words (MP3)
14. Into The Trees
15. Bringing The Body Back Home
16. Aparte

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