You know to fear the worst when a band is heralded as a mix of punk, jazz, funk, folk, rock and morris dancing. You expect a stage full of hairies jumping about pointlessly in half-mast trousers, the sonic equivalent of ice-cream, gravy and curried pomegranates puried together. There’s no denying Soul Coughing are eclectic. Another band of hip white boys thrashing about in the melting pot of NY culture, compensating for their emotional and cultural identity crises with a hip sheen of irony.
The difference is that Soul Coughing, in spite of ranging all over the music shop, are drop-dead, plumb brilliant. Singer Michael Doughty’s perpetual emotional agitation provides the core to ‘El Oso’. But ultimately, it’s the keyboard samples and noisenik guitars which elevate Soul Coughing above the dense, primordial wail of some of their contemporaries. ‘El Oso”s tense electro-droplets, tangential screeches and atonal blips aren’t just random expressionism but the sound of Soul Coughing’s nervous system. They’re synaptic jolts which keep the songs fully alive every second. Forget Beck, then, and forget the Beasties. This is white US crossover at its very finest.