Album: The Real Tuesday Weld, The London Book of the Dead (Antique Beat)

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The Independent Culture

Stephen Coates, guiding principal behind The Real Tuesday Weld, likes working within a conceptual framework.

The band's breakthrough album I, Lucifer was a soundtrack to the novel of the same name written by his flatmate Glen Duncan; Dreams That Money Can Buy was a new soundtrack to surrealist Hans Richter's 1948 film;. Things have got much more particular, however, with The London Book of the Dead, a "song-life-song cycle" inspired by the birth of Coates's son, and the death of his father. This time, it's personal.

You might suppose that The Real Tuesday Weld's musical style – a blend of cabaret-crooner cool, subtle electronica and period opera and jazz-age samples – would be too artful to express genuine emotion. Not so. The antique elements instead bring a powerfully evocative and affecting weight to the proceedings, which had me in tears during the climactic four-song section dealing with bereavement. Death has become such a glamourised notion in modern narratives that when it's depicted with such genuine tenderness, as in "Into the Trees", a short vignette of a dying man, it's like a punch in the solar plexus.

Musically, the band's staple mode of balmy piano, violin, tints of mellotron and fills of horn and woodwind is augmented here by a recurrent motif of klezmer clarinet, its cheery tootling enlivening tracks like the film-making fantasy "Ruth, Roses and Revolvers" and "The Decline and Fall of the Clerkenwell Kid". Elsewhere, the heartbreaking commemoration "The Sweetest Song" is a jazz guitar, celesta and mandolin waltz dressed in vinyl crackle and antique operatic samples; "Blood Sugar Love" a swirling miasma of bubbling synth, piano, optigan and typewriter; "Last Words" employs a puttering drum machine and cute piano hook to carry its poignant account of a final farewell; and "Kix" uses fiddle, mellotron, woodwind and horns to offer a demurring rejoinder to Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You".

Most impressive, however, is the way that despite the album's sombre tone, Coates evokes the bristling vibrancy of life in songs such as "Dorothy Parker Blue" and "I Loved London", a slow blues croon set to ghostly piano, vibes and trumpet, which deals with the way our moods stain our surroundings.'

Pick of the album:'Dorothy Parker Blue', 'The Sweetest Song', 'Last Words', 'Into the Trees', 'Bringing The Body Back Home'