Saturday, September 28, 2013

Freeze or burn: the ultimate first listen: Mike Doughty's "Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless..."

As good as the original Soul Coughing version, as dark as, but quite different. Does he approach the menace of the original?  No, not quite.

How Many Cans?
The drum machine becomes obtrusive; I'm very much a fan of natural rhythm (being a jazz aficionado) and have always disdained the synthetic '80s sound where metronomic rhythm was born. However, Doughty's version is, again, as good as the Soul Couging version, but in quite a different way that I can't really quantify.

True Dreams Of Wichita
I find this an improvement on the Soul Coughing version, which I always thought was draggy. Again, the synthetic rhythm is obtrusive, but the sampling is more in synch with the mood (better than Mark's).

Super Bon Bon
A bit more contemporary updating of the faux hip-hop vibe of the original. The original has an unbeatable bass line courtesy of Sebastian Steinberg who, IMHO, is among the best. I like Ms. Popper and all, but her understated playing simply draws attention to the brilliance of the original.

Mr. Bitterness
Never cared for the Soul Coughing version of this. Doughty's is better.

The Idiot Kings
A popish updating of the original, and if I'm not mistaken, in a major key, whereas the original was minor. I never really dug the original, so Doughty's updating can't help but revive it and highlights the subtlety of the lyrics (which was overwhelmed in the original).

Monster Man
The Soul Coughing original is buried in a wall of electronica but Doughty transforms into something resembling contemporary. (Disclaimer: I stopped listening to contemporary radio in 2000, after Soul Coughing was dissolved.)

Maybe I'll Come Down
Doughty's updating is clearly superior; like "True Dreams," the Soul Coughing version is heavier than the lyrics require, and Doughty's acoustic-inflected rendering (power-popish) rules. Probably the standout song of the album and, maybe, one of Doughty's best ever.

Unmarked Helicopters
Can anything beat the Soul Coughing original of this? No.

So Far I Have Not Found The Science
The Soul Coughing version of this was killer, sublimely and clumsily obtuse, yet ominous. Doughty's version rightly highlights the brilliance of the lyrics, but the tune doesn't quite hold up under the synthetic rhythm.

I Miss The Girl
Everything from "El Oso" is tattooed on my consciousness as a touchstone of all-that-was of 1998. So I will give a nod to the original, while conceding that Doughty's updating is quite good.

I miss Mark's keyboards and effects on this version. Doughty's version is quite good but I doubt that it will succeed in causing me to dislike the original.

St. Louise Is Listening
I regard the Soul Coughing version of this to be a dark but definitive rendering--simply one of the great songs of the 1990s. Doughty does the lyrics due justice, but in this case, justice does not prevail.

Disclaimer:  I'm a Mike Doughty fan who also happens, not coincidentally, to be a Soul Coughing fan. I'm aware of animus. I just dig the music.

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