Thursday, September 07, 2006

True Dreams of Wichita

Song: True Dreams of Wichita
Artist: Soul Coughing
Album: Ruby Vroom

Back in high school, I went through a hipster phase which I suppose I never totally got out of. After Nirvana, what was popular music really changed and I fell into the group of annoying wankers that discovered Morrissey and vowed never to get into pop music again. (Lest you forget I just purchased the Paris Hilton CD, so things have eh-hem, changed.)

There is a lot of stuff that I was really into from that time that I haven't gone back to at ALL. Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Cracker, Sugar, Shonen Knife, I really could go on and on. The hipster quotient doesn't make this music BAD but it doesn't make it GOOD either, and while I thought I was the bees knees because I was into The Vaselines and The Josephine Wiggs Experience at the time, these CD's haven't seen the light of day since the 90's and therefore haven't made the jump to my digital collection. (Morrissey has on the other hand has, every album (including the Smiths of course! as well as b-sides, remixes, and every live version I have gotten my hands on.)

One band that I was really into at the time, have unfortunately broken up, but I still listen to on a pretty regular basis are Soul Coughing. They released just three albums in a five year span from 1994 to 1998, starting with the stellar "Ruby Vroom." Their subsequent releases; "irresistible Bliss" ('96) and "El Oso" ('98) retain their downtown jazz/funk/poet aesthetic of their debut, but don't really come close to its epic scope. (But I do recommend all three, especially if you pick up "Ruby Vroom" and LOVE it.)

I discovered the band because back in the early 90's I had gone CRAZY for Suzanne Vega's "99.9 F" and that albums producer, Mitchell Froom. (Who later became Suzanne's husband, documented in "Nine Objects of Desire," then ex-husband, documented in "Songs in Red and Grey.") It was the first time, as I noticed he had produced the last two Richard Thompson records I had gotten, and Dan Zanes first solo album before he went kiddy, how much a producer can put his or her imprint on an album, much like a film's director does to a script. I started buying records that he produced without even knowing who the artist was and really dug a lot of them. I noticed many of the records he worked on he would hire Tchad Blake as the engineer (including 99.9 F.) I don't know how I found this out exactly because this was prior to the internet, but discovered that Tchad also produced on his own, and the first thing I picked up was "Ruby Vroom." (Which, incidentally, was named after Mitchell and Suzanne's only baby girl, Ruby Froom.)

Lead singer M. Doughty created, along with the band, a very eclectic mix of free-form jazz and bohemian avantgard poetry. Lyrically, he is all over the place, but yet this album creates such a great vibe that permeates with what New York City was in the early 90's. This particular record is great from start to finish, and I do recommend the others. "Irresistible Bliss" garnered the Alt-Radio hits "Super Bon Bon" and "Soundtrack to Mary," and "El Oso" had their biggest hit to date, "Circles." "Ruby Vroom" is still their crowning achievement, which was evident when I saw them on the "El Oso" tour in which they played "Ruby" almost in its entirety, and just did the hits from other two newer releases.

"True Dreams of Wichita" is my favorite song of theirs and while it is not their most upbeat, it really captures their vibe and the best of what they achieved. Subsequent M. Doughty solo record have left me cold, so stick with Soul Coughing, a band that should not be forgotten!


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