55. Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom
The first time I heard Soul Coughing was in 1995 when they released the single Super Bon Bon. It was one of those songs so weird and different and with such a strong What the Fuck factor that it was impossible to ignore. My cousin went out and bought the album Irresistible Bliss. Neither of us were fans and quickly forgot about them until the single Circles a few years later. While Circles was a massive hit for the band I still didn’t give the band much attention until one day my friend was listening to Ruby Vroom.
This is one of the most bizarre albums I’ve ever heard. It’s like Alternative and Jazz had a baby that spoke only in weird free form beat poetry. The first song I heard off it was Moon Sammy, a song that contains lyrics like ‘Behind the wall, there is a chair. Moon Sammy knows, the chair is there’. Regardless of the Dr. Suess-style lyrics the song was intensely catchy.
However I still wasn’t won over by the album until the second listen when I heard Bus to Beelzebub. The song is a bizarre story about a bus going to hell and samples Powerhouse by Raymond Scott (known as the Looney Tunes assembly line song). There’s something about the upright-bass driven song and sample that just got me extremely happy whenever I heard it. It was that and Casiotone Nation where the songs that made me run out and buy the song.
Soul Coughing still has a sound that no one has ever been able to match. With a clean electric guitar, upright bass, jazzy drums and random samples all work together to help to make the songs sound more incredible. The album was filled in Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood. The studio had a storage room filled with toy-whistles, rattles and other random toddler instruments. The bands started bringing these into the studio and playing around to create an even more unique and bizarre song.
After living in California I can comfortable say that the song Screenwriter’s Blues best describes the life of Los Angeles. Between the sadness of the song, the desperation of struggling for money and the rantings of M Doughty.
Soul Coughing released two albums that while sold better than Ruby Vroom was not as well received by critics or fans. The band broke up and Mike Doughty became a solo musician.