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The Real Tuesday Weld I, Lucifer Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

A remarkably wonderful album that takes its influences from such luminaries as Serge...

Lisa Haines 2004

When ex-art student Stephen Coates started seeing night visions of 30s big band singer Al Bowlly and gamine 60s actress Tuesday Weld, he called it divine inspiration. Now, after assembling a troupe of like-minded collaborators, The Real Tuesday Weld have conjured up an intoxicating soundtrack to Glen Duncan's novel 'I, Lucifer', in which Satan is offered redemption if he can last a month as a man, without committing any sins. The result is a melancholic collection of sardonic whispers, melodious instrumentals and woozy, underhand beats.

Coates scores the novel's plot with a percussive swing rhythm he likes to call antique beat. Roughly translated, antique beat is a debonair cocktail of electronica and 30s music hall samples that crackle with dust and age. Coates wry, muttered lyrics lend his ditties a mischievous if subdued charm. Lounge-pop track "The Eternal Seduction Of Eve" carries a vaguely sinister and unrelenting menace. 'I'm the figure on the edge of your dreams' murmurs Coates, as Satan, over a stealthy hip-hop beat.

The record is dusted throughout with hazy feedback and humming organs, all adding to a pervading air of existential panic. "Bathtime In Clerkenwell" is the best example of what happens when Coates applies his studio know-how to his frankly archaic record collection. Moby's already proved this a concept worth exploring, but I, Lucifer defies such a comparison and is closer to St Etienne or even The Cardigans. On "Bathtime In Clerkenwell", Coates mixes an obscure scat-vocal sample with break beats and exuberant brass, forging dance floor gold.

As the story unfolds, Coates makes frequent transitions from madcap floor fillers to dreamy orchestral numbers. The slower melodies on I, Lucifer are reminiscent of big band jazz ensemblists Squirrel Nut Zippers, though Coates' ballads are heavy with the drama of macabre cabaret and consumptive loneliness. The breathy vocals of jazz singer Pinkie Maclure swoon over a wistful organ on "One More Chance", a sultry take on Billie Holiday. Antique horn creeps tenderly over Maclure's mournful tones as Coates chimes in with his signature smoky meanderings.

Coates friend and Grammy award nominee Martyn Jacques, on loan from vaudevillian ensemble The Tiger Lillies, lends his vocals to mesmerising effect on "Someday (Never)". Plus the undeniable influence of 60s crooner Serge Gainsbourg is fully realised in the vocals of French singer/guitarist David Guez on "La Bete Et La Belle".

Much like the 'I, Lucifer' novel, the atmosphere of this album is heady with bitter mirth and longing. With a subtle alchemy of Portishead and Burt Bacharach, Coates has produced a soundtrack to a film that's never been made, and pays homage to a past that never quite existed.

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