…and while it’s taken 20 years, the music’s the better for it.
I’m reading Mike Doughty’s memoir Book of Drugs, in which he recalls the dual paths of his addiction and his music career. Only halfway through and it’s clear how the two fed off of each other.
After Doughty left Soul Coughing, his solo career has produced many of my favorite songs of his (I Hear the Bells, Looking at The World from The Bottom of a Well, Ossening, Sunshine). So while his path has been strewn with unpleasantness that nearly killed him, the work that emerged out of it seems better for it.
All of that said, listening to Ruby Vroom and Irresistable Bliss knowing how fucking miserable he and the band were, it’s hard not to hear the chaos and the deeply-rooted self-destructiveness that seems to infuse all of the songs. There was some nasty, death-dealing tumerousness in that early stuff.
Which is part of what makes his most recent album (Circles) that much more fulfilling a listen. He’s recut a selection of songs from Vroom, Bliss and Soul Coughing’s final album El Oso. It’s a completely different take on a bunch of familiar tunes. And while the uncapped batshit unhinged note doesn’t snake through songs like Super Bon Bon any more, the new cuts show that everything you loved about Soul Coughing was Doughty. The lyrics, obviously, but also the instrumentation, the beats, the loops, the whole thing.
The book is interesting. But the album wants to be your new favorite. Go get it.