New Classics: Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom

CrawDaddy just posted a great article on Ruby Vroom! Click here to check it out, or read below! Every time I’m in Los Angeles, I find myself wishing that I could soundtrack my car trips with “Screenwriter’s Blues”. The inevitable traffic jams always rob me of the opportunity. Sure, we are all in some way or another going to Reseda, someday, to die. But, I am not going to hasten that trip by subjecting myself to a song that suggests motion while choking on my own exhausts fumes. It’s one of the few times breathing is bad for you. Soul Coughing’s first record, Ruby Vroom, is under-appreciated in my estimation. Here and now, loops and samples are second nature. This album makes ample use of them, and does it well. Everyone from Thelonious Monk right on down to the Looney Tunes orchestra, in a broad swath of musical knowhow, gets whimsically spliced and inserted into Ruby Vroom‘s songs, like painless diabetic needles. And in case you like your jazz sugar free, there’s a bit of that too. Jazzy but not jazz, rocky but not rock. Aesthetically pleasing. In other words: Fly. As I write this, I’m realizing (here’s where shit gets meta) that my phrasing’s being affected by Doughty’s phrasing. Maybe you picked up on a few lyrical references, if you’re a fan, too. Some of those little fragments are too irresistible not to use, and I think that’s significant. Granted, cohesion isn’t his strong suit, but here’s a guy that’s super capable of pouring out whatever he’s got in his heart, mind, gut, and creating this almost effortless riff. I reckon he’d come in second or third in poetry slams, behind saucy black lesbians. Lyrically speaking, it’s not the big picture so much as the moment that’s worth listening for. And of course, that’s not to say that the songs rely wholly on Doughty’s spastic/smooth, clunky/cool shades of psychosomatic state capture. The rhythm section is propulsive and adds the kind of ambient heft that’s usually reserved for guitars. The deep, dark caverns and stark urban precipices of Ruby Vroom owe much to both upright bass whomp and tight snare crack. Check the lively dub play of “Down to This”. Check the depths of “Sugarfree Jazz”, with its bored, distorted seagulls. Perhaps it’s largely to producer Tchad Blake’s credit that the sampling in no way overpowers the songs. Okay, except for maybe “Bus to Beelzebub”, but that madness is clearly planned. However mitigated, the madness was not to last. Vroom is the first of three albums, each successively more conventional, an object lesson in how hard it is to remain weird. Doughty moved on to a solo career writing predominantly sentimental acoustic music, which too, has its moments. But most of those moments scream, “MEH!” when compared to this album’s inspired lunacy. I’ll take pretentious jazzy Doughty over whiny lovestuck Doughty any day of the week, but I do have a soft spot for Ruby Vroom‘s sentimental moments. For some reason, “True Dreams of Wichita” has me dreaming out over Babylon, heart stings filtered through the beatnik babble but beating, still. The “Janine” teacup storm replicates the feeling of getting too fucked up on a weekday afternoon, phone in the crook of your neck, loopy headed in a dark room, looking at the TV as a source of light and sound. Squinting. Al Roker talking the blues, somehow. It’s such a weird, amorphous pastiche of sounds and emotions.  But it’s sticky in the way a great album can’t help but be. It’s like sauce the bottom of a bottle. I’m drunk on its savory transmissions.

Sebastian Steinberg plays on Lou Barlow’s Goodnight Unknown

Sebastian lent his bass skills on a few tracks on Lou Barlow's latest record. Also on this record is Dale Crover (Nirvana, The Melvins), Lisa Germano (John Cougar, The Eels, Iggy Pop, David Bowie), Murph (Dinosaur Jr.).

Doughty Releases Sad Man Happy Man

Here is a review by Joey O. Early last year, Mike Doughty released Golden Delicious, which meshed his solo career with some of the beats of his Soul Coughing days. However, the overall effect didn’t really make for a coherent listening experience. Coming back with Sad Man Happy Man, Doughty goes back to basics and makes his most stripped down record in years. Hearkening back to his first solo album; the self-released Skittish; much of Sad Man Happy Man focuses on Doughty's voice and acoustic guitar, with some bass and cello flourishes from his cohort Scrap Livingston. However, it is far from just another acoustic, singer-songwriter record. Opening with “Nectarine (Part Two),” a sequel to “Nectarine (Part One)” from Golden Delicious, it sets the tone for Sad Man Happy Man, keeping Doughty's distinctive voice and guitar style front and center. “Lorna Zauberberg” sticks out from its use of some sampled, chopped-up chatter, but there is very little in the way of extra sounds and production at all here. “Pleasure On Credit” is closest Doughty gets to his classic Soul Coughing free-form 'slacker jazz' rap-style (with the great couplet “John Paul Jones/bustle in the hedges”). The “happy man” part of the equation is represented by songs like “(I Keep On) Rising Up” and the raucous “Lord Lord Help Me Just To Rock Rock On.” In the end though, this is Mike Doughty doing what he does best: catchy songs with repetitive choruses and off-kilter wordplay that bore into your brain. You'll have two chances this fall to catch Doughty's always-enjoyable live show in the area: October 30 at the Sellersville Theater and November 27 at World Café Live.

Mike Doughty to release “Sad Man Happy Man” – October 6th on ATO Records

When Mike Doughty released his second official solo album, 2008’s Golden Delicious, the reaction from fans was intense. “Some hated it, some loved it better than Soul Coughing,” Doughty says. “I tend to take sharp left turns. Every time I put out a record, the audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You’d think I could shrug it off because that’s what always happens, but it always gets to me.” Doughty admits that his upcoming album, Sad Man Happy Man - released October 6th on ATO Records - is a reaction to his fans’ reaction and that he’s giving the people what they want. “I really went for the ‘na-na-na's’ and the simple choruses and stuff on Golden,” he says. “The songs on Sad Man are more arcane and convoluted songwriting-wise, though they’re sparer in terms of instrumentation. Although my choruses are still simple — I love taking phrases and repeating them ad infinitum.” The largely acoustic Sad Man Happy Man is a deliberate return to everything people love about Mike Doughty, he makes albums that simmer with verbal wit, and Sad Man Happy Man is no exception with its songs about everything from relationship bust-ups (Doughty was going through one while he was recording it) to his astute observations about the American economy. "Pleasure on Credit" is a celebratory tale of the American spender in the face of the U.S.’s credit addiction crushing the world's markets; “Lord Lord” is all sly drug references, like “Tango and Cash” and “Dr. Nova,” which are both brand-names for bags of heroin. “That song is kind of like my ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’” Doughty says. “I like how Reed’s tune is all about tranny whores and yet is all over classic rock radio.” Doughty wrote "Rising Up" after his girlfriend sent him a terse email and, with his heart thumping, wrote five pages trying to exorcise his anxiety. “It’s my Gloria Gaynor moment,” he says with a laugh. “The message of the tune is: ‘You're fucked, but it doesn't matter. I'll keep on with my spiritual journey.’ Yes, I really am that much of a hippie.” Musically, Sad Man Happy Man finds Doughty returning to his acoustic roots thanks to its stripped-down arrangements that feature Doughty backing himself on guitar. He also did all the drum programming, as well as played keyboards and what he calls the “weird noise stuff,” while his long-time touring partner Andrew “Scrap” Livingston handles bass duties. Recorded at New York’s Kampo Studios, the album was co-produced by Doughty and engineer Pat Dillett (They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Arto Lindsay), with the exception of album’s first single “Doubly Gratified,” which was produced by David Kahne, who helmed Soul Coughing’s 1996 album Irresistible Bliss, as well as albums by Paul McCartney, Sugar Ray, and Tony Bennett. Doughty maintains a widely read blog (mikedoughty.com/blog) that chronicles his unique shows, international travels, and creative endeavors. He’s currently writing a memoir, recording an electronic album entitled Dubious Luxury, and working on a photo book about Eritrea’s capital city of Asmara, for Yeti Books. He also recently published a play, Ray Slape is Dead, in 24 by 24: The 24 Hour Plays Anthology, alongside Terrence McNally and Theresa Rebeck. But for now, Doughty is looking forward to a fall ‘09 “Question Jar” tour with his friend Scrap and releasing Sad Man Happy Man. “Basically I'm trying to make stuff I want to listen to,” he says of the album. “And I mean that in a literal sense, not like, “Were I a listener, I would like this,” but rather something I can listen to on the subway on headphones and really dig. This is my life, this is what I do. That sounds matter-of-fact, but I really do look at it as a sort of calling — and being an artist at its best is selfless. I'm working for the language, I'm working for the music, I'm working for the songs. I'm a happier guy when I'm conscious of that.” Sad Man Happy Man tracklisting – ATO # 0081 Nectarine (part two) (I Keep On) Rising Up (You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified) Lorna Zauberberg (I Want to) Burn You (Down) Pleasure on Credit Lord Lord Help Me Just to Rock Rock On (He's Got the) Whole World (in His Hands) (When I) Box the Days (Up) Year of the Dog Diane How to Fuck a Republican Casper the Friendly Ghost (written by Daniel Johnston) Fall ‘09 tour – all dates subject to change Oct 8th 2009 Club Cafe Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (two shows) Oct 9th 2009 Club Cafe Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Oct 10 2009 The Drake Hotel Toronto, Ontario Oct 11 2009 The Drake Hotel Toronto, Ontario Oct 11 2009 The Drake Hotel Toronto, Ontario Oct 13 2009 Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH Oct 14 2009 The Ark Ann Arbor, Michigan Oct 15 2009 Schubas Tavern Chicago, Illinois (two shows) Oct 16 2009 Schubas Tavern Chicago, Illinois Oct 17 2009 Shank Hall Milwaukee, Wisconsin Oct 18 2009 Blueberry Hill St. Louis, Missouri Oct 20 2009 Zanzabar Louisville, Kentucky Oct 21 2009 3rd & Lindsley Nashville, Tennessee Oct 22 2009 Melting Point Athens, Georgia Oct 23 2009 Eddie’s Attic Decatur, Georgia (two shows) Oct 24 2009 The Evening Muse Charlotte, North Carolina Oct 25 2009 Grey Eagle Tavern Asheville, North Carolina Oct 27 2009 Arts Center Carrboro, North Carolina Oct 28 2009 The Southern Charlottesville, Virginia Oct 29 2009 Birchmere Alexandria, Virginia Oct 30 2009 Sellersville Theatre Sellersville, Pennsylvania Oct 31 2009 Le Poisson Rouge New York, New York

Funny People

Funny People

Be sure to check out the new movie Funny People. Sebastian makes a pretty cool cameo playing in a band with Adam Sandler (and Jon Brion and James Gadson). In the film they are covering the song Real Love by the Beatles. And while you are at it, be sure to register and post in the new message boards.