“I dreamed a great parade shooting all the guns in Brooklyn/The man who had a spare held out two and then you took one”
An oddity of the 90s, the likes of which will probably never be seen again, Soul Coughing managed to be modestly mainstream while making alternative rock infused, beat poetry aping, sometimes purposefully grating, jazz. Lead singer Mike Doughty often called it slacker jazz, owing equal debts to the peaking college radio scene and drug addled jazz snobbery. And as with any real jazz (which Soul Coughing undeniably, strangely were) to capture it in a studio is to only capture the half of it. Doughty doubles down on his distinctive delivery in live settings, like this performance of Maybe I’ll Come Down. Increasing his affectation, he draws out his words like he’s diving into the deep spaces inside them. At moments, he’s aloof. At others, he snaps back into focus, howling with an intensity never captured on Soul Coughing’s records. The band matches him stroke for stroke, building from sparse, twinkling accompaniment to managing to sound like the bow of a ship getting crushed in the ice. It’s great to hear them with less polish, frayed at the edges slightly, but never out of control. And as always, the patchwork, slam-intoned lyrics take center stage. A vivid stylistic snapshot of the music scene, especially the New York scene, in the 90s, it’s the facet of Soul Coughing that stands the tallest two decades on. And to hear it captured live, like it’s being spit out for the first time, is the definitive way to experience it.