The Real Tuesday Weld – The London Book of The Dead / The Clerkenwell Kid Live At The End of The World

The Real Tuesday Weld
The London Book of The Dead / The Clerkenwell Kid Live At The End of The World

It’s taken Stephen Coates a painfully long-time to deliver a bona fide full-length follow-up to The Real Tuesday Weld’s sublime 2003 sophomore set, I, Lucifer (the official companion piece to Glen Duncan’s misanthropic novel of the same name). Not that Coates has been idle in the interim – hell no. Over the last four or so years, Coates has (deep breath) reconfigured/reissued both his first hard-to-find debut (changing its name from When Cupid Meets Psyche to The Return of The Clerkenwell Kid just to confuse matters) and I, Lucifer on bigger labels; played exclusive live shows with his ‘Little Big Band’ around the globe; supplied music to innumerable TV shows and the occasional mortgage-paying commercial; scored/toured a new alternative soundtrack for the 1948 surrealist film Dreams That Money Can Buy for its DVD release last year; taken-up blogging with near-religious fervour; given-up cigarettes; packed in his ‘day job’; got married; become a dad; and paid a sad but fond farewell to his own father. Whilst such a detailed list of Coates’s activities may seem like over-complicated diversions from The Real Tuesday Weld’s already obtuse route-finding, they have in fact all fed into the gestation of these two new simultaneously-released long-players; the eclectic/elaborate The London Book of The Dead, and its low-key sibling, The Clerkenwell Kid Live At The End of The World.

The London Book of The Dead is obviously the ‘main event’ of this fresh double delivery, given its far more ambitious reach and its easier-to-buy status. From preliminary aural interrogation, the record sounds a lot less meticulously-crafted and dictatorially-directed than the intricate I, Lucifer; with its looser production values, plethora of collaborators and even giddier genre-skipping suggesting that Coates might have let his mind wander a little too far into his other projects. Given a bit more quality listening time however, the more democratic and somewhat freeform approach reveals a raft of new pleasurable directions snuggling-up alongside the (re)conjuring of old-faithful trademarks. Sonically this means that The London Book of The Dead captures Coates and his cohorts absorbing and assimilating the arcane as well as the contemporary more than ever before. Hence, the dreamy “Dorothy Parker Blue” captures Coates successfully dabbling in Four Tet-flavoured folktronica, whilst the evocative instrumental interlude of “Waltz For One” completely flips the axis to pay a semi-deliberate homage to Yann Tiersen’s stunning Amélie film score. Elsewhere, there’s some slow-motion interwar cabaret with some genial crooning from the unknown Joe Coles, followed by the juxtaposing voodoo-percussion-and-gypsy-accordion-driven groove-ride of “I Believe”. Wade in further, and you’ll find the lush “Last Words” providing the magical missing-link between Pulp’s His ‘n’ Hers and The Sea And Cake’s The Fawn, not long before the closing strains of the antique-fashioned “Apart From Me” utilizes the three-part harmony vocals of The Puppini Sisters to glorious pre-rock effect.

Perhaps what really gives The London Book of The Dead its more evolved songwriting edge, is the sharper distinction between Coates’s riddle-strewn impudence and old-fashioned romanticism. Thus, the wit-splattered “Kix” uses plenty of cheeky Serge Gainsbourg-guided couplets to dismember Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out of You”; “The booze and pills/The cheapest thrills/They mean more to me now than you do”. The aforementioned “I Believe” shares the same level of affable insolence, as Coates proclaims, “I believe in monogamy/I believe in lust/I believe in promiscuity/I believe in trust”. But take a look on the less emotionally-wayward side of the Coates coin and you’ll stumble on the sweet swing-beat-pop of “It’s A Wonderful Li(f)e” (that seems to enclose a genuine declaration of paternal doting) and the beautiful jaw-dropping “Into The Trees” (which appears to be a touching eulogy to Mr. Coates Senior, with a graceful piano-and-voice stillness worthy of Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call).

Coates’s growing grasp of such warm sincerity is certainly at the heart of the limited-edition Live At The End of The World, which swaps studio-trickery and dizzy style-switching for a more singular ‘live’ sound, logically built-up from the foundations laid-down by the stage incarnations of The Real Tuesday Weld. The collection’s subtle mix of French chanson, smoky jazz, European cinema atmospherics and World War II balladry turns down the tempos to a strictly-controlled pace that’s perfectly suited for half-empty ballrooms, midnight whiskey drinking, smoking Gitanes and wistful day-dreaming. Whilst it’s not necessarily an essential purchase for the uninitiated and less-committed, Live At The End of The World will undoubtedly become another much sought-after collector’s item for devotees.

Any concerns that the unique sparkle of The Real Tuesday Weld might have been dimmed by extracurricular commitments and domestic gear-changes, are happily swept aside with these two distinctive delights from a songwriter clearly gaining confidence in reflecting life’s bewildering emotional cycles through enigmatic yet candid pop-art.