Year of the Album — #055
Mike Doughty – “Yes and Also Yes” (2011, Snack Bar / Mega Force / Sony RED)
“She doesn’t fall in love, she takes hostages,” Mike Doughty sings on “The Huffer and the Cutter,” which may well be his finest song in years, its sounds digging their way into your brain like meth-coated dark pop candy for the Breaking Bad generation. Needless to say, there’s plenty of reason to rejoice here the return of this erstwhile Soul Coughing frontman.
The album, however, also sums up what it’s like to be a fan of one of alternative pop’s most wicked wordsmiths. Is Mike Doughty a modern rock prophet of cool? And is his latest album at the same time something a mixed bag of sublime hits and experimental half-song misses? The answer is Yes and Also Yes. The album plays quickly, and is chock-full of Doughty’s rapid-fire musings. But four of the songs come in at fewer than two minutes in length, barely giving him time to grab our attention with a coherent thought, let alone hook us with any ear candy.
But lyrically he’s at the top of his game, particularly on “Day By Day By,” which lures you in and then takes over your mind by pure power of his tongue’s dexterity:
The future is old news!
Some ruse, the choice you choose
Decked out like a financier
Feckless like the fox you fear
Yeah, for the trophy cult
The University of Prom Queen Runners Up
Drowse in the immesureable
Pleather and wool
It’s a headier pull
No chance! Lose your trance
Napping like a sycophant
Where the fuck else can you ever find anything this mindbendingly twisty? Words bend and flip through the stutter-step beats and mild pulses of synth. He’s a pied-piper for those of us who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We want our music to be catchy and yet still find ways to say something profound … or at least something which feels profound when we’re listening.
Too bad half the album sounds like mere experiments, because Yes and Also Yes has the makings of Doughty’s finest solo record since Haughty Melodic. There’s an EP’s worth of spectacular material, and it speaks to Doughty’s talent that an EP’s worth of material is almost good enough. “Day By Day By” and “The Huffer and the Cutter” will go down as two of the better crafted pop songs of the year. The rest of the album is a holdover until Doughty can pull together enough material for our next fix.
I’ve just received word from Mike Doughty’s record label that the erstwhile Soul Coughing frontman turned solo superman has announced his upcoming album Yes and Also Yes for an August 3oth release date on Snack Bar / Megaforce / Solo Red records. Normally I don’t reprint press releases, but I found this one amusing, so I’ll quote below:
TEN THINGS MIKE DOUGHTY WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM…
# 1 “The title, YES AND ALSO YES was the headline of my profile on an online dating site. I improvised it off the top of my head, because they wouldn’t let me post until I wrote a headline. I was unsuccessful at online dating”
# 2 “The first single, “NA NA NOTHING”, was partially stolen from a song written by Nikki Sixx, Dan Wilson (wrote “Closing Time”), and Matt Gerrard (wrote a bunch of tunes in “High School Musical.”) (I got their permission to steal it)”
# 3 ”Holiday,” a Christmas song, is a duet with Rosanne Cash. I did a show with her, and she said, onstage, “I feel nervous playing my new songs, because Mike Doughty is here, and he’s such a great songwriter.” That BLEW MY MIND.
# 4 “The song “Into the Un” was written for, and rejected by the Twilight soundtrack. (It’s about goth kids on LSD in a train station)”
# 5 “I recorded it in a studio in Koreatown, Manhattan, from July ’10 to April ’11. Pat Dillett produced. Notable musicians included my trusty factotum Andrew “Scrap” Livingston on bass, and the pianist Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, who basically plays with everbody who’s groovy (Justin Bond, Antony and the Johnsons, Glen Hansard, the National, David Byrne, Yoko Ono). I’m releasing it on my own label, SNACK BAR, through Megaforce. I split with Dave Matthews’ label ATO so I could run my own shop and have more control, business-wise.”
# 6 “I wrote most of the songs at the legendary artists’ colony Yaddo, where Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Sylvia Plath, and a lot of other all-time giants worked. It was founded by a railroad tycoon’s wife, in her mansion, built in the 1890s. They put up artists for a month or two, feed them in an opulent dining room, and give them space and time to work.”
# 7 “I used a capsule of the antidepressant duloxetine as a percussion instrument on some tracks. I held the tiny pill between my thumb and forefinger, put it close to the mic and shook it so it made a shcka-shcka-shcka! sound.”
# 8 “I wrote a book about my ugly, drug-doing years called THE BOOK OF DRUGS. It’s coming out in 2012 on Da Capo/Perseus.”
# 9 “The song “Makelloser Mann” is in German”
# 10 “I play a Chinese lute (called a zhong ruan) on the song “Telegenic Exes #1”
# 10.5 “…in the liner notes, I say I exclusively wear Paul Smith suits and Sol Moscot eyeglasses, and eat only gummi bears made by Haribo. I did this because I hope they’ll send me free stuff…”
Here’s hoping the new album lives up to the hype! Mike Doughty’s one of those original songwriters who has a stylistic flair that’s been lacking among his contemporaries. He also happens to have been on my “must see this artist” bucket list. Enjoy my videos of “True Dreams of Wichita,” “Fort Hill” and “Girl In The Blue Dress” below from a show he put on in Indianapolis in 2008.
EDITED on 7/25 to update release date to August 30, 2011, and to add a more recent photo.