First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Tue February 19, 2008, 08:30 AM CST
Mike Doughty departed from Soul Coughing just as the group was hitting the peak of its popularity. Therefore, it might seem strange that his subsequent solo forays increasingly found him following a more mainstream-minded approach. In fact, anyone who had been hoping that the steps Doughty took on Haughty Melodic merely would be a temporary diversion is bound to be at least a little frustrated by his latest endeavor Golden Delicious. The two albums undeniably go hand-in-hand, and for the most part, Doughty once again seems content with leaving the experimental inclinations that marked his output with Soul Coughing behind. Nevertheless, there also are hints lurking within Golden Delicious’ core that perhaps he might not yet be finished smashing genres together to see what unfolds.
Re-teaming with producer Dan Wilson, Doughty largely reprises the framework of organic yet polished alternative-pop that he had contrived for Haughty Melodic. In fact, with the exception of the oddball More Bacon than the Pan Can Handle, there’s nothing on Golden Delicious that will alienate any of his newer fans. There is one similarity, however, that has continued to connect his solo efforts to his output with Soul Coughing: This stems from the notion that his songs consistently have been built around rhythm and movement more than anything else, and he embraces this concept a little tighter on his new album than he did on Haughty Melodic.
Throughout Golden Delicious, Doughty rejuvenates the hip-hop undercurrents that once flitted through his compositions. The beats and grooves as well as the interaction of the assortment of keyboards, horns, and guitars that he employs are all designed to propel his material forward. Even in crafting his lyrics, he strings words together based upon how they sound and the mood they create rather than what they mean. Consequently, songs like Put It Down, I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing, and 27 Jennifers need no further explanation. They are precisely what they are — immediately engaging and decidedly irresistible, even if their message ultimately is lightweight and disposable. Most important, though, he has made improvements in how he intertwines his dance-friendly interludes with his newfound love of melodic structure.
Doughty’s biggest achievement on Golden Delicious, however, comes with the album’s opening cut Fort Hood. Initially, the song feels like any of his other pleasantly innocuous excursions, but its title combined with the manner in which he sings the tune strikes a deeper, more resonant chord. Reflecting upon the war in Iraq, he pays tribute to the army base in Texas that has lost a lot of soldiers to President Bush’s misguided boondoggle in the Arabian desert. Doughty’s anger over their deaths bubbles to the surface when he sings lines like "Wake up fool/There’s no time for a shouting match" and "I see them coming back/Motionless in an airport lounge." Although he adopts The Fifth Dimension’s nearly 40-year-old hippie anthem Let Sunshine In as his chorus, the mood isn’t cheery and uplifting. Instead, Doughty sounds wearily defeated as he watches his hopes for the future slowly recede into the distance. It’s a moving moment, for sure, and in the end, one is left wishing that the rest of Golden Delicious contained the same level of gravity.
Golden Delicious is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box