Touring in support of a new release that features re-imagined renditions of old Soul Coughing songs, Mike Doughty arrives in Chicago Thursday night for a live performance at Park West...
“I’m full bore, bat sh-t crazy with regards to Soul Coughing" said Mike Doughty in his 2012 autobiography The Book of Drugs (Da Capo Press) - a book that chronicles his unhappy eight year tenure as frontman of one of the more unique bands to emerge from the nineties alternative music scene (and the downward spiral of abuse and self-loathing that came as a result of the nearly all-encompassing hatred he developed for his old band - contempt and animosity fueled by everything from his bandmates themselves to the very music he created with them during that time). The desire to escape that particular period was so strong that Doughty claims to have signed away the rights to all of that music.
Which begs the question: Why revisit such a painful period?
And while he's not necessarily embracing the Soul Coughing experience that was, it seems that the idea of revisiting the music itself started with writing the book. "There is kind of an element of people actually understanding where I’m at in a way that I guess I just didn’t make clear as I’ve been talking about it for the past eleven years that I haven’t been in that band" said Doughty when we spoke last March following the release of The Book of Drugs. "Certainly, I let it be known that I disliked the music and had a really terrible experience being in the band but I don’t think I really told the stories specifically. So there are some listeners coming back going 'Oh, wow! Now we understand!'"
Since Soul Coughing broke up in 2000, Doughty has gone on to release a number of critically acclaimed solo projects that frequently see the singer-songwriter layer guitar and electronic elements over typically intelligent lyrics. He was especially proficient in 2012 - a year that saw the release of a studio album (Yes and also Yes), a double live album (The Question Jar Show) and a covers album (The Flip is Another Honey).
"My audience for this new work was hard won and — particularly after I published a memoir, The Book of Drugs — was deeply supportive of the new self I was trying to become. At some point, though, I began to wonder if I could ever again own my old Soul Coughing songs — not legally, but in my own heart" said the songwriter in a recent New York Times commentary.
And from there, Circles, Super Bon Bon etc. was born - a project crowdsourced via a successful PledgeMusic campaign that eventually hit #65 on the Billboard album chart - an album that sees Doughty approach the Soul Coughing catalog for the first time in over ten years.
The new collection features a heavier dose of electronic elements - Sounds that were radical on Soul Coughing songs written nearly twenty years ago but are far more commonplace in the pop music spectrum now - nevertheless, the songs hold up.
Re-imagined in a manner much more resemblant of his solo career as a singer-songwriter, many of these songs are a bit stripped down with less of the jazz influence that became a Soul Coughing trademark.
"I Miss the Girl" is slower and less frantic with an emphasis on words. Same goes for one of the band's biggest hits in "Circles," where the focus shifts from Soul Coughing samples to Doughty's guitar playing. In their new surroundings, the strength of songwriting on these tracks moves to the forefront. For example, "St. Louise is Listening" (a song released in 1998 and one of Soul Coughing's finest moments) loses none of its driving intensity in a slower, more deliberate delivery in 2013.
One gets the feeling that these songs, for the first time, are being heard by Soul Coughing fans in the manner in which Doughty originally wrote them - as opposed to the way Soul Coughing eventually recorded them.
"There’s an inherent strangeness to a performance like this. The songs are alive to me, whereas the audience has a relationship to an unchanging recording. Every time I play a song, there are microscopic alterations in how I phrase this or that word, or play a chord. Over years, it can amount to radical evolution" continued Doughty in the New York Times in regards to his current tour.
Soul Coughing was always, at its core, unpredictable - one characteristic that seems to remain intact as Doughty revisits that catalog on the live stage.
(Details on Thursday's Mike Doughty performance at Park West after the jump)
- Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)
(Jim also hosts "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" Sundays at 6PM central on WIMS and WHFB - streaming at wimsradio.com and via the free TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet)
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"M. Doughty Used To Be In Soul Coughing - Whole Show of Songs From El Oso, Irresistible Bliss, Ruby Vroom"
(Mike Doughty Live In Concert)
Thursday, October 24, 2013
322 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
Click HERE to purchase tickets