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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
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Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Mike Doughty
Golden Delicious

Rating: 5.8/10 ?

February 4, 2008
In start contrast with the aged Nick Lowe, who sees his 1978 album Jesus of Cool reissued by Yep Rock the same day that Golden Delicious buds, Mike Doughty's vitality drained far quicker that Lowe's, but his "serious art" sucks less. For one thing, he hasn't gone and lambasted the old stuff (yet). That would be Soul Coughing, one of the 1990s' great epitomes, a mélange of upright bass, free-jazz drumming, visionary sample-collating and beat poesy-rapping that somehow got on the radio twice. All three of their albums - Ruby Vroom, Irresistible Bliss and El Oso - are essential to any respectable collection of alternative anything, so get 'em. Doughty's brand of humor is more slanted than Lowe's, rambling about planes crashing into the Chrysler building or the 5% nation of nipple clamps. But if you understand hooks, you understand "Blame" and "Blueeyed Devil" just fine. And his surrealistic verbiage sometimes did factor out to actual poetry; his finest recitation, "Screenwriter's Blues," could change your idea of Los Angeles forever.

After those three, Doughty lived through a heroin addiction and a rental car tour all by himself, and the fine recordings of that period surfaced on, of all places, Dave Matthews' ATO imprint in 2004. But then he started to take this solo artist thing a bit too seriously, and soon his limited knowledge of acoustic guitar and ham-fisted "sincere" lyrics ended up on Gray's Anatomy, and thus began his recent descent into the mediocre. But because he's still a catchy melodist, he's failing at a slower rate than most. His new album, Golden Delicious, has tunes that almost survive the ill-chosen production of Semisonic's Dan Wilson, the same hack who turned what should've been the Dixie Chicks' defining hour at their cultural peak into the feeblest Bush-protest song of the era.

My favorite thing on Golden Delicious, "Like a Luminous Girl," is so corny-beautiful it might land Doughty another run soundtracking nighttime chick dramas. The runner-up is "I Got the Drop On You," a minor-key dirge that makes a clean oasis in the bustle of overproduced Dave Matthews-funk, even if the first verse rather horribly rhymes "easy," "Japanese-y," and "cutesy."

So I'm not gonna lie, Golden Delicious looks pretty terrible on paper. The first song takes its chorus from Hair, and the second one's an unnecessary parody of Doughty's own patented "barump-a-dum-dum" scatting. The minute-long rap "More Bacon Than the Pan Can Handle" is an embarrassing bid to bring the Beck comparisons back, and no one needed a remake of "27 Jennifers" (from 2004's likeably patchy Skittish/Rockity Roll comp) lacquered down with bland-funk organ soloing (Wilson's work I presume). Words may be failing him, but I insist nearly all of these terrible ideas are tuneful, even if he's the 134,568,979th songwriter to ask a girl to keep dancing. Either way, Mike Doughty's still young and there's yet time to save him from becoming Nick Lowe (or Dave Matthews). If he can kick smack, he can kick bland music, and an intervention from ex-bandmates might be all he needs. What do you say, guys?

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss



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