You might have thought that the exuberant, nonsensical, lyrical goofiness of Mike Doughty’s tenure in Soul Coughing was inspired by the copious amounts of drugs that he was, by his own admission, doing. If you were to listen to his latest offering, as I am doing now, you might be forced to rethink that.
The last time I saw Doughty live, at the Middle East in Boston, he had just released Haughty Melodic, a full-band effort on ATO records (the label started by Dave Matthews which hosts both Doughty and My Morning Jacket) that he heralded as his first foray into “Medium Rock.” His previous effort, Skittish, which is among my favorite albums, um, ever, was “small rock.” I still think Skittish was better than Haughty Melodic because HM felt a little like Doughty was trying to streamline his sound – the quirkiness was still there in spurts (lines like, “I’m done with clowns and trapeze artists/ I wanna run away and join the office” and – my favorite – “you snooze, you lose/ well, I snossed and lost”) but the album overall felt like something you’d expect on Dave Matthews’ label (Matthews even appeared on “Tremendous Brunettes”). (NOTE: My Morning Jacket does not sound like something I’d expect on Dave Matthews’ label, ever – their awesomeness transcends such things as record labels. Seriously, they could be on Death Row Records and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.)
But enough about Haughty Melodic. I’ve come her to praise/adjudicate Mike Doughty, not to bury him. His newest offering is called Golden Delicious and on a first listen, it’s entirely a step up from his last effort. It still has that pop sound like Haughty Melodic but Doughty’s quirkiness has somewhat reasserted itself – the songs sound more like he’s playing around, stretching his voice, fucking with language. In short, he’s recaptured a lot of that spirit which you either adored or reviled from Soul Coughing. I fucking adored it. Having said that, though, Golden Delicious is no Soul Coughing album. The greatest promise of Mike Doughty’s solo work so far has been his utter fucking earnestness. The guy is sincere and to a certain extent, it helps him get away with a certain amount of cheesiness. “I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress,” would be ridiculous if Doughty couldn’t sing it in a way that lets you know that he knows it’s silly; but most infatuations are. If all singers could so humorously honest about their infatuations, emo wouldn’t suck donkey dick.
This is, mind you, my first trip through this album (just got it from emusic) and I may write more about it later on but I have to say about Mr. Doughty that he comes off as a hopelessly romantic goof and he makes you root for him. Or at least, he makes me root for him. If you like onomatopoeia and a certain goofy romanticism in your music and you think John Mayer is a fucking goon, maybe put down that copy of fucking Room for Squares and stroll over to Doughty’s section of the music store. Golden Delicious is not for everyone, but no good music is.