(The Real) Tuesday Weld – I Lucifer

Stephen Coates (who is both the brains and brawn behind (The Real) Tuesday Weld) certainly isn’t a man happy to rest on his laurels. Having so successfully forged a (previously unfathomable) link between Noël Coward, Serge Gainsbourg, and Brian Eno on his sublime 2001 debut long-player, When Cupid Meets Psyche, Coates could have forgivably sat back and coasted through his next two or three albums, safe in the knowledge that he had created a unique and enduring vehicle for his pop-centric songwriting. But to his immense credit, (The Real) Tuesday Weld return in 2003 with a gargantuan leap forward.
Both musically and conceptually speaking, I Lucifer is 12 long strides ahead of (The Real) Tuesday Weld’s previous efforts. Conceived as the official companion to Glen Duncan’s dark comic novel of the same name, I Lucifer is one of those rare musical ventures – a soundtrack for a book. But fear not, those of you who struggle to read more than one work of fiction a year, there is no need to speed-read the text or carefully program your CD player in order to reap the rich rewards of this devilish audio delight.
No, I Lucifer the album, is fully functional with/without the peculiar multimedia coupling. Coates may immerse himself in the mordant mirth of the book but he doesn’t pedantically padlock himself to its complex and convoluted plot (a viciously funny tale where the Devil gets one last shot at redemption, if he can live a month on earth in the body of a mortal being with little or no wrong-doing). Instead Coates focuses on the novel’s persistent themes – lust, greed, existential pain, and the eternal enticement of evil – and refracts them through the long dark tunnels of his romantically-obsessed world. Drawing inspiration from Barry Adamson’s 1996 classic Oedipus Schoemdipus, Coates fashions his very own soundtrack for an imaginary film; high on guest-player interaction and full of exhilarating stylistic twists.
Coates humbly uses the musical guests to reach into places his own abilities might not otherwise take him, therefore allowing himself to concentrate on the musical bedding whilst his creative foils deliver precision-executed performances. Thus Martyn Jacques (on loan from vaudeville cabaret ensemble The Tiger Lillies) gives the sparse “Someday (Soon)” an otherworldly vocal presence that could even spook the King of Hell himself. Leftfield jazz chanteuse Pinkie Maclure acts as a swooning duet-partner to Coates on the smouldering Billie Holiday-inspired “One More Chance.” Parisian David Guez satisfies Coates’s Francophile fixations with the gorgeously sung “La Bête Et La Belle,” which could happily be mistaken for a lost acoustic demo by the late Gallic pop genius Serge Gainsbourg.
Left to his own devises though, Coates can still cut a fine slice of the cinematic pop action for himself. The instrumental interludes highlight the unstoppable combination of Coates’s studio prowess and his diverse (and strange) record collection. Thus “Bathtime In Clerkenwell” is the best example yet of (The Real) Tuesday Weld’s antique-beatronica; fusing an ancient scat-vocal sample to choppy percussion and fruity synths, like DJ Shadow if he only worked with crackly 78’s. Later on, the awesome “Coming Back Down To Earth” melds a truncated samba bass-line to layer upon layer of jazzy drum clatter and Eno-indebted keyboard swirls. Outside of the wordless wanderlust, Coates still leaves space for his own enigmatic presence. His breathy up-close vocals (like Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker after some very strong French-cigarettes) are perfect for weaving in amongst the delicious textures of vibes, percussion, piano, organs, and samples that pervade the bulk of the album. Coates’s self-sung “The Eternal Seduction of Eve,” in particular, is a ridiculously lush example of just how far he has progressed as both a singer and a songwriter.
Loaded with sharp wit and debonair flare, I Lucifer is a cinematic tour-de-force – brilliantly casted, expertly shot in dark and beautiful colours, and directed/scripted by a consummate perfectionist. It provides reassuring evidence that the Devil does still have all the best tunes.