Monday, June 29, 2009

along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometimes

Every once in a while a game review comes along which is shocking, baffling and hysterically funny, all at the same time. Zero Punctuation's review of Infamous and Prototype is that review.

One way to keep an eye on things, likely not the best way: Warner Brothers ejects non-English speakers from its SL properties.

So let's talk about The Real Tuesday Weld. They're somewhat unique in that they have great critical acclaim while having virtually no popular acclaim. For a band that many, many people have heard without ever knowing it--that says something odd about the whole business of recording.

At times, simply due to the tonnage of film and animation work they've done, their videos seem more avant-garde art pieces than music videos.

Outside Left had this to say about them:
"They call their music "antique beat". It is an exquisite blend of the modern and the ancient that seamlessly mixes quaint Englishness with louche continental charm."

(Stephen Coates of The Real Tuesday Weld; all rights reserved to Paul Heartfield.)

I admit, I love that term, "antique beat". Beyond the sheer catchiness of it, it also drags in the deep vintage, along with the allusions of Bohemian coffeehouses and soft-step swing. That, and here we are again, defining "steampunk" as "using whatever's on hand"--his own label admits Stephen Coates is equally as likely to employ a piano or a drum set, as poker chips, kazoos and pedal organs.

At this point, The Real Tuesday Weld boasts twelve members, which officially beats out Big Pig, who at their height toured with singer, guitarist and eight percussionists.

They apparently do a great deal of work with the Puppini Sisters, a wonderfully wicked vintage burlesque set of songsters who hail from Italy and Britain:


(I don't know too much about them--yet--but I have to say, I adore the shoes.)

One of the best examples I found of their joint work is the gleefully morbid Apart of Me. You'll never think of maggots in the same way again.

They've also done a lot--and I do mean a lot--of film scores, commercials, and incidental scoring for both film preservation efforts and museum presentations. In fact, the odds are good that you have heard them; you just didn't know it at the time.


(Five members of The Real Tuesday Weld at the OPB studios in Portland, Oregon: right to left, my best guess is Don Brosnan in black, I think Gary Bridgewood in the pale blue shirt and bowler, Clive Painter in the leather hat, Jed Woodhouse with the lizard, and Stephen Coates on the right with the green glass goggles. ...I hope.)

On the bio section of their official web page, Stephen Coates starts off the revelation with this:

"I grew up in an old fashioned house where Thirties British dance band music was played (along with a dash of easy listening). I was very reserved - I played the recorder, piano and trumpet and I read mythology. I developed a prediliction for hallucinogens and became a cross dresser. I was a student at the Royal College of Art in London, dabbled a little with music but started to meditate and decided to become a Buddhist monk. I spent four months in the Spanish mountains abstaining from drink, drugs and debauchery on the path to enlightenment. I came down. I really came down. I collapsed into a psychic heap, split with my paramour and entered into a shadow world. I began to study Jung and James Hillman and to pay attention to my dreams. I visited a shaman and had a series of very strange experiences in London and in the Cambrian mountains in West Wales.

"One night I had a very strong dream in which the British crooner Al Bowlly appeared to me in Piccadilly circus. I took it as an omen that I needed to become a musician. The next night I dreamt of the actress Tuesday Weld. I started to make funny little songs which reminded me of the way I heard music through the walls of the house I grew up in. I read an article about a girl who ran a little record label and who sold her sports car to finance a single. I sent her something. We met and she (Tracy Lee Jackson) and I released a series of records on her wonderful Dreamy imprint."

This is not your average artists' bio. But then, Stephen Coates and company are far from your average artists.

The Blog Critics review of The London Book of the Dead would push them towards an even greater vintage sound; Flak Magazine wonders if Coates is enamored of the tease at the expense of the payoff. And eMusic lovingly describes their sound as "Like wandering out of the London fog into a studio full of laptops."

Yeah. It's a lot like that.

Some visuals and listenables:
Black Birdies Come, bittersweet and evocative instrumental number
The Cherry Coke commercial using "I Love the Rain"
The promo trailer for Nip/Tuck's second season
Dreaming of You, a collaboration with Cibelle
Last Words, later used in the film Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Heaven Can't Wait, ethereal drifting melody mixed with a hushed beat to visuals that range from microscopically-enhanced genetic proliferation, to 1940's-era bathing beauties, spun together into one wide-ranging, yet surprisingly tight sound

Their current label, Six Degrees, has an excellent article on their evolution as artists, with emphasis on frontman and main songwriter, Stephen Coates. They also link to the band's MySpace page, and their official site.

Give them a listen. You've likely heard them before.

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