First, let me be up front about my biases when it comes to Irresistible
sophomore album from Soul Coughing: since receiving a promo copy here at
a couple of months ago, it's been on heavy rotation. I mean heavy--as
other CD we throw in the player. As in, if someone takes it home with them,
bring it back within 8 hours, we get very fidgety. As in, there's
a steadily growing
faction of staffers who want to put Soul Coughing on the cover every
in, if ever this staff felt an album deserved an "orgasmic" rating, it's
Speaking of sophomores, Bliss is, strangely enough, structured much
curriculum of a high schooler. No, really. And not just the classes of
a high schooler; this
album addresses much of the psyche of boys ages 14-17. Check out these
Subject:Math Song: "4 Out Of 5"
Soul Coughing's first math lesson, two years ago on Ruby Vroom's
Nation," was on percentages ("The five percent nation of (insert random
here)") and counting exercises ("5-10-15-20 etc etc" all the way up to
100). The next
tutorial--addition, natch--is covered in "4 Out Of 5" ("4, 5 therefore
9; 9 and 9 therefore
18..."), and is craftily disguised as a one of the simpler, rhythmic songs
on the album, so
as to make the mathematical medicine go down easier.
Subject: History Song: "Collapse"
Remember those awful current events reports in history class? "Uh...well,
said something about the budget the other day...I think he was from Tennessee,
Arizona. Anyway, he sounded mad so I think he was a Republican..." Imagine
front of your bored, note-passing peers and saying "Mid-Level manager/Says
about/Some mulatto girl/shot him in the mouth/and left him in the hotel
near the mid-south
offices." Wouldn't that spice things up? Especially if delivered
in frontman M.
Doughty's smooth, searing, newscaster-on-crack tone. Even more especially
if backed by
Sebastian Steinberg's lightning-quick, thwaking bass.
Subject: P.E. Song: "Sleepless"
You can admit it now. The statute of limitations for ditching P.E. has
expired. This song is, apparently, about the kid that not only ditched
P.E., but generally
missed as much school as possible, as is evident from the lines "I am out
on the veranda
when I should have gone to school/ I got the will to drive myself sleepless",
repeated, scatlike phrase "skee dunt stunt the runt, smokin' buddha bud"...you
have been the guy that hung out, baked as a baguette, at the Gas-n-Sip,
but you knew him.
Probably only talked to him when you needed to score, huh? Yeah, it was
Kids are cruel. Anyway, "Sleepless's" droning rhythm (Steinberg on a dreamy,
upright bass and Yuval Gabay on tinny, slick drums) captures the rambling
brain patterns of the class stoner in a really...uh...you know...cool way,
Subject:Teen Crush Angst Song:"Soundtrack to Mary"
Girls, didn't you hate it when a boy didn't seem to care that you dumped
him at the Sadie
Hawkins dance in front of his friends? Didn't you wonder what was going
head when you saw him in the hall between classes? This song explains it
all: "I know the
sound that you make/and I can't seem to unremind myself/I hope you feel
better later on."
It's the lament of every post-adolescent boy who can't admit he's been
hurt, and can't find
the words to say what he feels. It's sad and angry and poignant, and probably
makes a lot
of male teenagers feel kinda funny.
OK, self-serving attempts at clever metaphors aside, Irresistible Bliss
is a logical
second step for Soul Coughing. The nut of their sound hasn't changed, really;
the urban-white boy-hip hop artists they were with Ruby Vroom, but
tightened up and spread out. Where Ruby's disjointed melodies and
studded songs tended to sit on the fence between driving hip hop and mellow
Bliss hops seamlessly from one side to the next. Songs like "Super
Bon Bon" and
"Collapse" are harder, harsher, and more melodic than any on Ruby.
obviously enjoy playing together, and that comes through in the cleaner,
music recorded here. The songs may be quicker, but they're immesurably
the sometimes disparate elements on Ruby--where the sampling, the
section, the guitar and the voice often struggled for the spotlight--have
somehow learned to
compliment rather than compete with each other. On the other hand, the
album's final cut,
"How Many Cans?" is a notch or five sultrier anything they've put on disc.
over a bruised ego, it asks (begs, even) the question, "How many cans must
I stack up/To
wash you out from my mind/Out of my consciousness?" Its slow, bluesy bass
carries Mark De Gli Antoni's decidedly unsampler-like sampling and Doughty's
singing to Irresistible Bliss's. sad, perfect ending.