Enter the Mind of a Teenager - And Live!

First, let me be up front about my biases when it comes to Irresistible

Bliss, the

sophomore album from Soul Coughing: since receiving a promo copy here at

ATN Central

a couple of months ago, it's been on heavy rotation. I mean heavy--as

in, every

other CD we throw in the player. As in, if someone takes it home with them,

and doesn't

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

month. As

in, if ever this staff felt an album deserved an "orgasmic" rating, it's

this one.

Speaking of sophomores, Bliss is, strangely enough, structured much

like the

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

lyrics. You'll

see:

Subject:Math Song: "4 Out Of 5"

Soul Coughing's first math lesson, two years ago on Ruby Vroom's

"Casiotone

Nation," was on percentages ("The five percent nation of (insert random

proper noun

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,

some senator

said something about the budget the other day...I think he was from Tennessee,

or maybe

Arizona. Anyway, he sounded mad so I think he was a Republican..." Imagine

standing in

front of your bored, note-passing peers and saying "Mid-Level manager/Says

he heard

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

long since

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",

and the

repeated, scatlike phrase "skee dunt stunt the runt, smokin' buddha bud"...you

might not

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

high school.

Kids are cruel. Anyway, "Sleepless's" droning rhythm (Steinberg on a dreamy,

thumping

upright bass and Yuval Gabay on tinny, slick drums) captures the rambling

and skittish

brain patterns of the class stoner in a really...uh...you know...cool way,

right?

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

through his

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;

they're still

the urban-white boy-hip hop artists they were with Ruby Vroom, but

they've

tightened up and spread out. Where Ruby's disjointed melodies and

sample-

studded songs tended to sit on the fence between driving hip hop and mellow

jazz,

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.

The quartet

obviously enjoy playing together, and that comes through in the cleaner,

more synchronous

music recorded here. The songs may be quicker, but they're immesurably

smoother, and

the sometimes disparate elements on Ruby--where the sampling, the

rhythm

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.

Another lament

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

and drums

carries Mark De Gli Antoni's decidedly unsampler-like sampling and Doughty's

pained

singing to Irresistible Bliss's. sad, perfect ending.