Erstwhile Soul Coughing vocalist Mike Doughty has released an album wherein he covers his past self. A baker’s dozen of Soul Coughing songs have been re-imagined for the release Circles Super Bon Bon…, which is something of a surprise for two reasons. First, the man has very little good to say about his tenure in that groundbreaking band. Second, revisiting past successes usually signals waning inspiration, but Doughty’s solo output has been terrific. His flair for marvelous wordplay has never dimmed, and there’s a great deal to enjoy about his post-‘90s output once you can get past what a bunch of frat bros the bulk of his fans are. From his web site:
1. The parts about Soul Coughing in my memoir, The Book of Drugs, were a big fat ball of darkness. After a long, arduous book tour, reading these parts to audiences, I sat down with an acoustic guitar and picked through them. I found myself wanting to figure out what I meant, who I was, where I was when I wrote the songs. I wanted to separate the songs — not the recordings, but the songs — from the darkness.
2. These songs are as I meant them to be, when I wrote them, in the ’90s: some are club bangers, some are pop songs; in general, they’re bigger, heavier, cleaner, funkier, more streamlined than the originals.
The crowd-sourced album was fully funded in under a day, and, unsurprisingly, the songs are, for the most part, fairly stripped down. Really, it would be hard for them not to be relatively sparse without the dense, playful, trippy layers of keyboards and concret Mark degli Antoni brought to Soul Coughing - and incidentally, if you’ve ever been curious what it’s like to be stoned in a fishbowl, immerse yourself in his sorely overlooked 1999 solo album Horse Tricks. But though Doughty’s voice seems to have lost a bit of flexibility—middle age can be a motherfucker to male singers’ high registers, so it goes—the songs are still great fun, and the beats retain their punch. The entire album is on YouTube, check it out:
Or if you’re about the a/b thing, compare “Super Bon Bon,” old and new, and marvel at the delightfully odd video Doughty and director Meg Skaff conceived for the new version.
Also, never say never.