November 16, 2001

(The Real) Tuesday Weld "Where Psyche Met Cupid"

Stephen Coates is the real Tuesday Weld. No, wait, I mean he is (The Real) Tuesday Weld. Not since the likes of Matthew Sweet have we seen a pop star so open in their admiration of Tuesday Weld. Maybe Weld won't call Coates a weirdo for his obsession.
Who knows? (The Real) Tuesday Weld has been talked about with baited breath by the indie-pop cognoscenti, and with good reason. Much like other indie pop darlings, Coates is a man with many good ideas but not many listeners. Where Psyche Meets Cupid is Coates' debut album, and, like other British artists, a good portion of this record is culled from various singles and EP's that were released over the past year or two. No matter; his previous releases were nice, lovely affairs, that seemed all too short in length. Some (including yours truly) wanted more of this exotic new musical taste--and four tracks on an EP

Wherever Coates came up with the idea of mixing sounds of 20s and 30s big band pop with a 90s techno and pop sensibility, I'd like to know. For all of the combinations and twists and turns and experiments, Coates hit on the one idea that, as far as I know, is truly original. Thank god, however, that Coates actually has the talent to back up his musical ideas--how many times have good ideas been totally ruined by less than talented folk? I could attempt to describe by mentioning more established artists that Coates occasionally sounds like, but that would simply be misleading, as well as revealing in the limits of said "influences"

Now, to do a complete turnaround. That people talk about his mixing of big band-era sounds with techno would imply that he's making techno swing music. Nope. There's absolutely nothing retro about what Coates is doing with (The Real) Tuesday Weld. That there's nothing to compare with (The Real) Tuesday Weld as well makes this even more difficult to talk about. The only band I can think of that even slightly resembles what Coates has done would be this utterly obscure group called Boulevard of Broken Dreams, a band who recorded one album in the mid-80s and then disappeared Even Stephin Merritt--who would be the closest thing to the standard-bearer of good, pre-World War II music--cannot truly be considered an equal to Coates' aesthetic. To call Coates retro is missing the point entirely--he's inspired by, but not trying to replicate, the best pop of the 20s and 30s. That it might slightly sound "retro" is simply the listener's own predilections at play.

But that's alright. Coates seems to be a man who enjoys a good tune, and whether it sounds like a lost Pet Shop Boys b-side or a romantic Gershwin tune makes absolutely no difference to him. It's good to see that there are musicians who put the needs of the song above the fashions of today's fickle music listeners. I know of some younger folk who bought this record and were confounded by it; thinking that it would be something to mix in randomly with their Belle and Sebastian and Magnetic Fields records, much to their chagrin.

From the opening "Am I In Love" to the final "Goodbye Stephen," Where Psyche Meets Cupid provides nothing but pure, enjoyable, thoughtful POP music. I find it difficult to talk about a single song out of context; this is an album that must simply be heard to be appreciated. I've yet to read anything about them that isn't a practice in cynical understatement or overt praise that focuses on the whole retro big band meets techno thing. (I guess I'm writing overt praise, but as I am me and this is what I do, I have no problem with that.) Every single song on this album is, in some form, a love song; even the instrumentals invoke pleasant images of the progress of romance. Coates has a lovely, breathy sigh of a voice, very thin, yet very smooth, and one that floats and fills in nicely with the grooves of the tracks. To say that (The Real) Tuesday Weld are the "next big thing" would be ludicrous, as well as a distraction from Coates' true talent.

Where Psyche Met Cupid is very easily and very quickly making it to the top of my "top ten" list for this year, and rightly so. He's written an album full of love songs, to express all feelings of love, and it didn't take him 69 tries to get it right. This is an album for people in love, people who want to be in love, and people who are feeling as if love has passed them by. It's a labor of love from Coates, and how could we do anything but appreciate that gesture?

--Joseph Kyle

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