Daisies. I’ve always liked daisies. I really love the way they poke their heads through crazy babies.
Astounding is the artist who transforms a mundane subject into a pretentious lyric. More so is the artist who takes that line and places it over a train of flowing swirls, retro taps, and a perfectly placed smattering of vinyl crackle. In fact, maybe the whole relationship is a little too perfect.
His name and music were inspired by a dream involving actress Tuesday Weld (star of 1960’s Sex Kittens Go to College) and 1930s vocalist Al Bowlly. As the Real Tuesday Weld, Stephen Coates’s alter-ego lives in a world where facades and concepts recur, and each album is treated as a show that must go on. The Return of the Clerkenwell Kid is his second release on Six Degrees, and although 2004’s I, Lucifer went somewhat unnoticed as the soundtrack to Glen Duncan’s novel of the same title, Coates’s 2005 release provided an opportunity for perfectionism. Taking the latter notion quite literally, Coates opted to eliminate a number of songs in the recording process and complete this record with new recordings of tracks from his 2001 debut on Kindercore, Where Psyche Meets Cupid. In fact, Coates was apparently so enamored with that album that he damn near re-recorded it and slapped on a new title.
Granted, the British singer-songwriter has become quite adept at perfecting his niche: his blend of dreamy yet dramatic pop would fit perfectly in your grandmother’s record collection, were it not for the slight bits of electronic beats that gave his music a current touch. However, whereas I, Lucifer was more upbeat and heavier on the quirk, so to speak, Return of the Clerkenwell Kid gently loosens up on the Tin Pan Alley quality that made the Real Tuesday Weld stand out. On his 2005 release, Coates offers a touch of everything from Small Change-era Tom Waits (“At the House of the Clerkenwell Kid”) to a Brazilian Girls-style update on bossa nova (on the aforementioned “Daisies”). Never hovering above more than a soft murmur, his soothing voice coats each song with a vocal smirk — always tasteful and subtle, but understanding that each musical moment is precise and deliberate.
Much as this record is lovely in concept — the concept being the life of a love affair from beginning to end — I, Lucifer was, simply put, more memorable. Coates likely has an optimistic future, though; he claims to appreciate artists over a wide range of styles, his current list including both ABBA and Tommy Dorsey, as well as the late but like-minded Soul Coughing. This in mind, the Real Tuesday Weld will be humming a happy tune as long as Coates knows how strongly to weigh his influences.