Music / Soul Coughing

Soul Coughing was a popular New York-based, alternative-rock band formed in the mid 1990s and disbanded in the early 2000s. Soul Coughing developed a devout fanbase and have garnered largely positive response from critics. Steve Huey in Allmusic describes the band as "one of the most unusual cult bands of the 1990s ... driven by frontman Mike Doughty's stream-of-consciousness poetry, Soul Coughing's sound was a willfully idiosyncratic mix of improvisational jazz grooves, oddball samples, hip-hop, electronics, and noisy experimentalism (described by Doughty as 'deep slacker jazz')."

Former members:

  • M(ike) Doughty - vocals/guitar
  • Mark De Gli Antoni - keyboards/sampling
  • Sebastian Steinberg - bass
  • Yuval Gabay - drums


  • Ruby Vroom (1994)
  • Irresistible Bliss (1996)
  • El Oso (1998)
  • Lust in Phaze (compilation, 2002)

"You take the tropes and I'll take the index, you've come down to this":

  • Alternative Rock
  • Alternative Hip Hop: Far more of their hip hop influences comes from the instrumentals and heavy use of sampling. Mike often does a half-singing-half-speaking stye.
    • Thats not to say he never rapped on any song ("Monster Man" for example features rapping)
  • Anti-Love Song: "Circles", about a man tired of his dull relationship repeating itself and his significant other.
    • "True Dreams of Wichita" is, according to Word of God, an Anti-Love Song about an old ex of Mike Doughty's who ran off with the drummer from a band he used to be in. The apparent Word Salad Lyrics are actually a string of inside references that only the three people involved would understand.
  • Author Appeal: Doughty seems to have a penchant for American geography. The number of mid-size US cities that crop up in the lyrics is staggering.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "The Bug" from the Batman & Robin soundtrack has a chaotic ending where Mike Doughty can be heard repeatedly muttering something in the background. If you listen carefully, you can make it out as "George Clooney is Satan!"
  • Broken Record: Multiple occurrences, especially in "Rolling" and "Circles" — the latter of which is obviously invoked, as it's about a failing relationship that keeps doing the same tired shit over and over again, with Doughty himself stating it was him subtly telling the rest of Soul Coughing to fuck off.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Houston" fades out with the lyric "roller-boogie motherfucker" being repeated about 20 times in a row, seemingly just because the band had decided that was an inherently funny combination of words.
  • Fading into the Next Song: On El Oso, "Houston" fades into "$300".
  • Funk Rock
  • Greatest Hits Album: Lust in Phaze
  • Homage: The bridge to "Casiotone Nation" loosely quotes the themesong to the film Yor: The Hunter from the Future.
    Yor! Yor! He's the man! He's the man!
  • Horrible Hollywood: Invoked rather esoterically in "Screenwriter's Blues".
  • Lyrical Tic: Mike Doughty tends to pronounce an additional vowel at the ends of lines that end stanzas ("When you were languishing in rooms I built to file you in-uhh / And when the wind set down in funnel form and pulled you in-uhh").
  • Miniscule Rocking: The one minute B-Side "Theme From Rachel's Sitcom".
  • Post-Grunge: While most of their stuff is jazzy (or at least jazz influenced), it's most obvious in "Rolling", which is about racing — and, being faster-paced and more heavy than the rest of the album, it shows.note 
  • Recycled Lyrics: the bridge to "I Miss The Girl" ("I dream that she aims to be the bloom upon my misery") is recycled from a Mike Doughty solo song called "I Failed To Use It".
  • Sampling: Most prevalent in Ruby Vroom, but used sometimes throughout their career. The most prominent uses of this may be "Bus To Beelzebub" and "Disseminated", both heavily based around Raymond Scott samples ("Powerhouse" and "The Penguin", respectively).
    • "A Plane Scraped Its Belly on a Sooty Yellow Moon" includes a bass-line from "Lazybones", one of their own songs. It might not be a straight self-sample though: "A Plane..." was a collaboration with Roni Size where they sent him unfinished instrumental and vocal snippets and had him incorporate them into a song, so they could have given him the bass line to use, then developed it into one of their own songs later.
    • "Unmarked Helicopters", recorded for a tie-in album for The X-Files and heard in the episode "Max", samples Mark Snow's theme for said show. The samples are mostly unrecognizable because they're sped up a lot or otherwise heavily manipulated, but the very end of the song is a couple of seconds of the theme's distinctive whistling.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: The increasingly frantic "Like waves in which you drown me shouting" chorus in "Pensacola" carries a definite whiff of SS.
    New York, New York, I won't go back
    Indelible reminder of the steel I lack
    I gave you seven years, what did you give me back
    A jaw grind and disposition to a panic attack
  • Scatting: One of the band's trademarks. "Paint" is almost all scatting - Mike Doughty had written the chorus lyrics before the verses and started scatting as lyrical filler, then decided to just keep the verses as mostly nonsense syllables.
  • Shout-Out: The bridge to "Casiotone Nation" includes lyrical nods to Fugazi's "Waiting Room" and the title theme to Yor: The Hunter from the Future.
    • The live version included on the Lust in Phaze compilation uses the chorus of Sunny Day Real Estate's "Seven" during the bridge.
    • Doughty's description of the band's music as "deep slacker jazz" is a reference to The Who's billing as "Maximum R&B".
    • Irresistible Bliss is a play on the Prince B-Side "Irresistible Bitch".
    • Ruby Vroom is named after Ruby Froom, daughter of Record Producer Mitchell Froom and singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega. Mitchell Froom was a frequent collaborator with Tchad Blake, who produced the album.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Not counting the many times Doughty does his own spoken word in songs, there's "$300", which loops a slowed-down snippet of a Chris Rock comedy album for its chorus ("How much? She said 'for three hundred dollars I'll do an-'").
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Also one of the band's trademarks. Even their more sensical songs turn into things like "Roller-boogie motherfucker" on loop.
    • "A Plane Scraped Its Belly on a Sooty Yellow Moon", their song from the Spawn soundtrack.
    • "A Murder Of Lawyers In Overcoats", a B-side from the El Oso sessions.
    • "Come And Dig Me 'Cause I'm the Fly Pygmy", a track from their Hello Recording Club CD released in 1996.