Haughty Melodic

Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty has emerged with his first
full-fledged studio album since the dissolution of his erstwhile quirky New York
band. That the album is clever, witty, and a tad off-center is not surprising.
That it easily and almost casually rivals anything he did with Soul Coughing is.<
P>For a rock musician, Doughty's literary credentials are impeccable. After
Soul Coughing called it quits in 2000, Doughty wrote a column for the New York <
I>Press. One of his pieces, "I Like It Warm and Fuzzy," was selected by
guest editor and High Fidelity author Nick Hornby for a collection of 2001's HREF="http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/dacapo/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0306810662"
target="_new">Best Music Writing. (see below for link to essay)

And in
2003, Doughty published a book of poetry called HREF="http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-887128-71-9" target="_new">Slanky, in which he
essayed on pop culture through free verse and portrayed Cookie Monster as a
burned-out suicide. No less a luminary as Ben Folds weighed in that "There is
just as much rock and roll in his poetry as there is poetry in his rock and
roll."

His lyrics on Haughty Melodic are consistently witty and
inventive. In "Busting Up a Starbucks," he uses rhythmic language and visual devices,
like the similarity of "own" and "now" even more than actual rhyming, which he
forces for humorous intent like rhyming "tiny fist there" with "Sister,
Sister."

In "American Car," Doughty turns romantic mythology on its head,
beginning with a description of a circus performer who wants to "Run away and join
the office." His lyrics twist and turn down unexpected paths. While "Unsingable
Name" and "Madeline and Nine" are about literal romance, "Grey Ghost" is about
the death of Jeff Buckley which also manages to namecheck character actor Bob
Balaban.

Some of the praise due Haughty Melodic is owed to producer
Dan Wilson (formerly the frontman of Semisonic). Wilson adds some nifty
arrangements to songs that Doughty had previously recorded completely solo, like
"Busting Up a Starbucks," "Grey Ghost," and "Madeline and Nine." Wilson's
production keeps Doughty firmly front and center, but each song sounds different from
the rest and it's never an uninteresting listen.

Doughty wrote about his music in 2001, "I like it to have big fat superlow
frequencies that cause a palpable physical tingle." While the solo work dials
back the superlow tones that characterized Soul Coughing, the palpable
physical tingle is still present in the thrill of listening to a clever songwriter.<
P>Haughty Melodic is not simply a terrific album. It's one of the best albums
of 2005's first half.

  • Read Mike Doughty's essay HREF="http://www.nypress.com/13/15/music/music2.cfm" target="_new">I Like It Warm and Fuzzy

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director