Not all songwriters keep bankers' hours; some rise at first light, sitting down to corral their
thoughts and form them into coherent songs.
M. "Michael" Doughty is not among them.
"I'd have been wise to have gotten into the kind of writing style where I get up in the
morning and sit at a keyboard and churn out five or seven pages," the 28-year-old lead
singer of experimental, New York band Soul Coughing said.
Instead, Doughty did just about everything, and anything, but sit down at a word
processor and collect his thoughts for the group's third album, El Oso, which was
As it is, though, the singer said, he often spends a few hours in front of the television, with little
more than a line or two to show for his work when he rises. "I just have notebooks and
notebooks of stuff and I sort-of hold an augury stick over it and try to find a vague threat of
a theme," he said. "It's sort-of tortuous, actually."
The result are songs such as the album-opening
(RealAudio excerpt), a hypnotic track with a metronome-beat and the chorus, "I'm rollin'/
I'm rollin'/ I'm rollin/ I'm rollin', ah." The song, one of several on which the band augments
its jazz-rock sound with a more beat-heavy vibe, is otherwise littered with Doughty's
signature stream-of-consciousness lyrics about amplifiers, getting a "tight tension on"
and "tripping on the boom bap etymological."
If any theme can be detected, it's that Doughty sometimes has the attention span of a
hyperactive child in a hyper-literate adult's body.
The art-rock/poetry/hip-hop group -- which also includes drummer Yuval Gabay, bassist
Sebastian Steinberg and keyboardist M'ark de Gli Antoni -- expands its sound on the
album with more techno-style jungle beats and abstract musical backgrounds, while still
offering up healthy doses of the abstract-expressionist scat poetry that informed its first
two albums, 1994's Ruby Vroom and 1996's Irresistible Bliss.
Just as Doughty experimented with more circular, repetitive lyrical ideas on songs such
as the yo-yoing, bottom-heavy
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Soul_Coughing/Misinformed.ram">"Misinformed"(RealAudio excerpt), drummer Gabay said he also felt free to subtly tweak the
band's sound this time around.
In addition to bringing his fascination with techno jungle beats to songs such as "Blame"
and "The Incumbent," Gabay said he played around with producing gut-rumbling bass
beats to fatten up the group's sound.
"I wanted to go away from not having enough bass," Gabay, 35, said of songs such as
the teeth-rattling "Miss the Girl" and "Misinformed." "I wanted more and different kinds of
bass, especially more subsonic bass, that 'shake your jaw' bass."
Like Doughty's by-hook-or-crook lyrical style, though, Gabay said the actual formation of
his "fat-ass bass" style was somewhat of a happy accident.
"On a song like 'So Far I Have Not Found the Science,' that was a combo of a really
cheap recording on a four-track and a real studio sound that we tried to make even
stupider sounding than it was to create a more extreme sound," Gabay said.
The acoustic track, on which Doughty's vocals are pinched and robotic-sounding one
minute and jousting with laser sounds the next, is a mix of sampled and live music
Gabay said the band pieced together with producer Tchad Blake.
"One of the pleasures of working with Tchad," Gabay said, "is that he has got a sh--load
of instruments laying around his studio. Everything from toy instruments to all kinds of
percussion and old keyboards."
If you listen, you can hear some of those random instruments in "Rolling," on which
Gabay said he played toy bells, Doughty played toy piano and Blake played a shaker
that the drummer said may have contained somebody's ashes.
"Now that's freaky," Gabay said.