Mike Doughty, Golden Delicious (ATA Records, 2008)

New Yorker Mike Doughty first made a name for himself singing and playing guitar in the eccentric jazz/rock band Soul Coughing. That band broke up in 2000, after which Doughty spent several years getting his solo career off the ground. A couple of his homemade recordings eventually got the attention of Dave Matthews, who signed Doughty to his ATO label. The first result of this pairing was the solid 2005 album Haughty Melodic. Starting with the single "Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well," Haughty Melodic was full of witty and insightful songs.

Regrettably, Doughty's new album Golden Delicious fails to approach the same standard. Doughty instead comes across as a tired songwriter fresh out of good ideas. The single "27 Jennifers" is decent enough, but it's actually a re-recording of an older song of Doughty's, and several songs on Haughty Melodic were better. Otherwise, too much of the album seems lyrically forced, at least in the few cases when the choruses have actual words and weren't borrowed wholesale from some place else. Doughty's singing style has always incorporated an improvised, sort of hip hop variant of scat singing. In the past this had a sort of quirky charm that worked for him in general, but on Golden Delicious it just sounds overused and clichéd. And while I agree with the sentiments of the politically charged opening song "Fort Hood," which deals with people's indifference to what's going on in Iraq, the appropriation of the chorus of "Let the Sunshine In" from the musical/movie Hair didn't strike me as being inspired as much as too cute by half. The only lyric that caught my attention comes on the song "Like a Luminous Girl," when he sings about meeting somebody at the station in Ronkonkoma. While I can't help wondering who he knows that lives out my way, the reference to my home town wasn't enough to keep Golden Delicious afloat for me.

I'd still strongly recommend Haughty Melodic to to people interested in Mike Doughty's music. Golden Delicious, by unfortunate contrast, just finds Doughty at a loss for inspiration.

Overall grade: C+

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

topbeagle said...

Dave Matthews was interested since Ruby Vroom, Soul Coughing. I can send you am Mp3 of Dave playing "Is Chicago, Is not Chicago"