Soul Coughing El Oso on 180g 2LP
Despite their disparate backgrounds, Soul Coughing's Mike Doughty (vocals/guitar), Mark De Gli Antoni (keyboards/samples), Sebastian Steinberg (upright bass) and Yuval Gabay (drums/percussion) came together out of the bowels of New York's underground with a unifying theme. Steinberg relates the band consensus: "Funk had become this tinny sounding shit. One of the things we all agreed upon was that Soul Coughing had to have a dark deep low-end and that live we had to be as fat as all these hip hop records."
The band broke out of the experimental art rock ghetto in 1994 when their first album, Ruby Vroom, sold in excess of 150,000. After backbreaking tours with the likes of Jeff Buckley, Sunny Day Real Estate and Cop Shoot Cop, they returned to the studio in 1996 with renowned producer David Kahne and created Irresistible Bliss out of the tunes they had perfected while on tour. Powered by the high-spirited aggression of the radio-friendly track "Super Bon Bon," their 1996 sophomore effort did even better selling over 250,000 copies.
Blake was back at the controls of the band's third and final studio album El Oso in 1998. Doughty says that, for once, they actually had to fully develop their tunes. "Tchad had a zillion keyboards, whistles, bells, toys, weird speakers and guitars, and we went crazy with the overdubs." As a result Soul Coughing's already prodigious funk is fatter and their groove more hypnotic than ever before. "I don't think we hit stride with song production until this record," confides De Gli Antoni.
El Oso brought Soul Coughing more than a few steps closer to realizing their dream of being a great dance band. Jungle beats dominate the cuts and drum & bass influences are also apparent here which the band acknowledges with a guest appearance by British maestro Optical on "Blame" and "The Incumbent." And as for Doughty's lyrical prowess, which draws its sustenance in equal measure from A Tribe Called Quest and the beat poets, it has never been more refined. Check out the way he captures that salacious gutter vibe on "$300," the fetid claustrophobia of addiction on "Houston" and the supple swagger of "Rolling."