Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Mike Doughty, the former lead singer of Soul Coughing, makes it all sound so disruptive, as if we're never going to get past all of the noise. We'll never be able to skirt the basic, problematic structure of society to get to those comfortable places, where the grass might not be greener, but it's certainly not burned up or overwhelmed by domineering weeds. He writes about our involvement within the strange cycle of a world that's continually trying to work its way closer and closer to the lowest common denominator.
The chumps and the bullies are breeding and there doesn't seem to be any way of stopping it. The only thing that could help matters is possibly adopting more of a survive-at-all costs attitude, where you're going to do right by you and yours and just see where that gets you. It could be better off, or you could just be joining those that you loathe already. His stories are those about ruses and rubes and the thought that there's more misery on deck than there is behind you. He writes about sweet smells and lonely roads, knowing that they're connected in very personal ways, just like everything else.
There's all kinds of loneliness in the crowded feelings of his characters, many of whom are feeling anxious, jittery and much too threatened by the fears of everyone they're sharing the air with. It's contagious - the loneliness and the fear. He'd rather that joy spread, down through the valleys. You can tell that he puts glimmers of hope in the saddened hearts of those that he writes into his songs. They weren't meant to be beaten down. They were meant to absorb punches and to deliver some of their own, in defense. You can tell that not much is consensual when it comes to these characters, but there's no doubt that they have refused to give up the ship. Had they done such a thing, there wouldn't be so much ire or that feeling of being aghast at all of the ugliness that's out there.
The world that Doughty brings to us is one that should not be looked at for being in the shitter, but rather one that could be taken out of the shitter as there are people here who could do such a thing. There's a sentiment that this might happen yet, that propensities could be thrown for loops, that all the shit could be used to grow roses and tomatoes.