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Music / Soul Coughing

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R-L: Sebastian Steinberg, M(ike) Doughty, Mark De Gli Antoni and Yuval Gabay
You get the ankles
And I get the wrists.
You get the ankles
And I get the wrists.
You get the ankles
And I get the wrists.
You come down to this.
— "Down To This"

Soul Coughing were an incredibly quirky band from New York, formed in the mid 90s and enjoying some underground success throughout the decade before disbanding in 2002. They gained a fervent cult fanbase with their unique sound which combined bits of alternative rock and jazz bass lines with Mark Degli Antoni's unconventional keyboard playing and hip-hop/electronica-influenced samples, all lead by lead singer Mike "M" Doughty's stream of consciousness quasi-rap lyrics to create a style Doughty referred to 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 Hip Hop: Downplayed. While Mike did rap on certain songs (such as "Monster Man"), his singing style was closer to talk-singing than traditional rapping. The hip-hop influence was stronger in the music, with its heavy use of sampling and funky bass lines.
  • Anti-Love Song
    • "Circles", about a man tired of his dull relationship repeating itself and his significant other (it's also partially about Doughty's feeling of being in the band at the time and a subtle way of telling them to fuck off).
    • "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 (or are titled after) 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's stuck in a rut, doing the same things over and over again.
  • 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". On Lust In Phaze however, "$300" appears on its own, with its intro edited accordingly.
  • Funk Rock: Many of the heavier bass-driven songs, like "Houston", are very frunky.
  • Genre Mashup: The most common description of the band's sound is "jazz-influenced alt. rock," but they also incorporate bits of hip-hop, funk rock and R&B, none of which in their pure forms. At times, the style of the given song is based entirely around what's being sampled.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Lust in Phaze
  • Homage: The bridge to "Casiotone Nation" loosely quotes the theme song 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".
  • One-Woman Song: "Janine". Supposedly the back story is that Mike Doughty was walking down the street with his guitar when a clearly drunken man asked out of nowhere "How do you make a white girl fall in love with you?". When Doughty suggested writing her a song, the man said "you've got a guitar, you write her a song! Her name's Janine..."
  • Post-Grunge: The band delved into this a bit on El Oso. "Rolling," for example, is noticeably faster-paced and more musically heavy than the rest of the album, featuring a distorted bass guitar which sounds largely out of place in the rest of the band's jazz-influenced alt. rock catalogue.
  • 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".
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Rolling" is about popping ecstasy.
  • Sampling: Heavily employed on Ruby Vroom, but used throughout their career.
    • "Bus To Beelzebub" and "Disseminated" are both heavily based around samples of Raymond Scott songs ("Powerhouse" and "The Penguin", respectively).
    • "A Plane Scraped Its Belly on a Sooty Yellow Moon", from the Spawn soundtrack, is billed as a collaboration with Roni Size, but it's more like a Roni Size song that's full of Soul Coughing samples: The band sent Roni various sound clips (such as Mike Doughty reciting some original poetry and isolated instruments from different Soul Coughing songs) and allowed him to remix them as he wished. The end result prominently features the bass line to "Lazybones".
    • "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.
    • In "$300", a slowed down clip of "My Favorite Joke" from Chris Rock's second album Roll With the New plays after the chorus. The track itself originated from that sample as Mike Doherty had heard the joke and recorded it into his ASR-10 sampler to find out what it was (as the audio was initially backmasked on the album), and then wrote the whole track around said joke.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: The increasingly frantic "Like waves in which you drown me shouting" chorus in "Pensacola" carries a definite whiff of SS.
    • Half of "The Incumbent" is Doughty chanting a Madness Mantra.
      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.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Doughty's solo song "I Can Hear the Bells" describes a woman's attire as "your business dress, so businesslike".
  • 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-'").
  • Step Up to the Microphone: The rare Frank Sinatra cover "The Coffee Song", said to be a leaked contribution to a canceled Sinatra tribute album: Yuval sings most of the verses in a heavy Israeli accent, with Mike singing the chorus and doing some backing vocals, and one verse being shared by Mark and Sebastian.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Also one of the band's trademarks. Even their more sensical songs such as "Houston" 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.