Speaking of NYC Spring songs, here’s another.
It would be far too easy to dismiss Soul Coughing as pretentious white boy jazz (which, on a superficial level, isn’t too far from accurate) or 2ish hit wonders (the Ricky Martin baiting “Super Bon Bon” and the joyful, ridiculous “Circles.”), without allowing the joy and depth that their music has and the excitement it can bring about. Find somebody whose never heard either of Soul Coughing’s singles on the radio and play them the band’s debut, Ruby Vroom, once through, and they will be asking, man who is this?
When the band released Ruby Vroom, they were unconventional, at a time when convention was Seven Mary Three, or maybe if you were lucky, Nine Inch Nails. Guitar was sharp, rhythmic, and often atonal, warm upright bass gave the songs their melody, Drums either acted as motor or airbags, samples rose and fell out of the mix, and Mike Doughty sung-spoke real poetry in a thick hearty New York accent. Nobody was ready for this, when it was released, which is surprising because, though unconventional, the album is both inviting and lot of fun.
“True Dreams of Wichita” watches the east river thaw itself out from the Williamsburg Bridge, back when the only people heading to Williamsburg were either Hassidim or had a machette somewhere on their persons. Tchad Blake’s production allows the song to bloom gradually, and I melt at the way he keeps those drums right up front, right next to the bass.
It’s a clever line, early on in the song, when Doughty intones “I’m half drunk on the drinks you mix.” It’s the sign of a real writer that, about two minutes later, he returns to complete the image “I’m half drunk on babel you transmit/through your true dreams of Wichita.”
It’s cheating a little bit to give you “Janine” as well; I almost feel like you have to earn the tenderness of this song, which closes out the album. Still, it’s too good not to share.
Also, Beck, St Vincent, The Liars and OS Mutantes do good.