As far as Soul Coughing goes, it’s hard to pay any attention to them in 2019 without acknowledging the awkward rift that’s come about between singer Mike Doughty (who since the band’s prominence has released something like eight solo albums or so) and the rest of his band mates. Even in following this current tour he’s on, playing all of their old stuff, I look to the “Mike Doughty” Facebook feed, the tour itself billed not as Soul Coughing but as the “Mike Doughty Plays Soul Coughing’s ‘Ruby Vroom’ 25 Year Anniversary Tour.” It’s sort of opposite of the situation of Fleetwood Mac, wherein the lesser bandmates themselves retained power, ousting the dominant male singer and songwriter who had been the band’s sort of sonic and aesthetic flagship.
Anyway, the tour is on, about six dates in or so, and lots of things about it mystify me to this second.
The first is that, frankly, it didn’t TOTALLY suck. I mean, I really can’t stand these anniversary tours. Also, seeing as he’s played the song “Circles” at least twice so far, I believe (this information is probably available on setlist.fm for anyone who desireth it), the tour shouldn’t be called the “Ruby Vroom” tour as “Circles” is on El Oso, two albums following their debut which marks the title of the tour.
So he’s got none of his old bandmates and he’s totally sloppy with the setlist and terminology (wow, who’d have thought playing a stale old album a million times in direct order would get boring or anything), he and his band have this fancy garb they’re wearing which they seem to never wash (and which also garnered an entire Facebook share on its own… very New York… they were probably “tailored” and everything), and in general a lot of the facets of this thing just strike me as rather foreign.
It’s ironic, then, that when the MUSIC works, it works for being, well, something totally alien and unheard at the time, like the version of “Bus to Beelzebub” in Nashville (Doughty actually resides permanently in Memphis now, which is kind of interesting), originally sort of a mediocre song in my opinion but for this run-through stripped of those annoying strings, sped up just slightly I think and souped wickedly with this funky, Dr. Dre type bass line and these drum and bass break beats, coming in sporadically. See, you can tell Doughty has been monkeying around on his computer a lot, which is something for which you don’t need other musicians around, so maybe this stuff is paying off after all.
Then other times, when him and the gang are up there running through the old songs verbatim, it ranges from listenable (the mundane but tight and rhythmic run-throughs of “Blueeyed Devil”) to basically rather regrettable (the empty, emotionally bland versions of “Circles” I heard).
Many thanks go out to Doughty for making these videos available on his Facebook feed and generally just rocking in the free world. But you don’t need to walk around in circles, so why would you?