Mike Doughty – Sad Man, Happy Man – CD Review

(*Editor’s Note – Thanks to my reliable laptop crashing this was postponed for quite sometime.)

Before I even start I would like to publicly kick myself in the ass for not attending last night’s Mike Doughty concert at the Beachland Ballroom (Oct. 10th).  I know I missed a good time and I am the one to blame for missing it.  I just had too much going on and not enough green paper in the wallet so I decided to sit it out and today am regretting it.  I also had the flu of sorts so it just was not happening.

Luckily I got my hands on his new album so at least I have something to listen to and talk about.

I always admire the musicians out there in the world that have overcome hardship and feed off the fan reaction rather than make music for pure financial purposes. One performer in particular that comes to mind when I think about a hard working true music maker is Mike Doughty.  Doughty, as many know, was the lead man of the 90’s alt rock act Soul Coughing.  Sadly the band called it quits thanks to constant battles with drugs and also financial hardship but Doughty kept going on doing his own thing.

He started recording solo material and soon had a cult following who worshiped his every word and sang along with to every song.  I was one of those folk who took a huge liken to him.  I loved seeing Doughty on stage alone with guitar in hand singing folky and rocky songs to an ever loving crowd.

Doughty took his fan’s reaction to his 2008 solo release Golden Delicious and used it to mold his next release titled Sad Man, Happy Man.  Some of the fans loved the rock pop heavy Golden Delicious while others hated it.  Perhaps the dis-likening came from the more upbeat fun styles that were bursting from the tunes over former albums.

Having such a huge step up from his widely known solo material was credited with Doughty’s “dude theory”, an idea of recording music that sounds like a bunch of dudes playing music for the fun of it. The result of his dude music won new fans and also caused some of the more so diehard fans to go so far as calling him a sellout for doing what he did. Not taking the negative reactions personal he used it to his benefit and began a different approach when creating new material.

In fact he used the responses as a fuel of sorts to making something better in his current release and admitted that his previous album sparked an array of feelings by saying:

“…some hated it, some loved it better than Soul Coughing.  I tend to take sharp left turns. Every time I put out a record, the audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You’d think I could shrug it off because that’s what always happens, but it always gets to me.”

As a fan of everything Doughty has done since the days of Soul Coughing I have to admit that I was one of the fans who liked Golden Delicious. It was a change in his style but still catchy to my ears.  Just check out my review I did on it.  I was happy from start to finish and the album is still played here and there when I am looking for something fun to jam out to.

When I heard that Doughty was going back to his roots when recording Sad Man,Happy Man I was eager for the release.  After hearing listening to it (over and over I might add), it is clear that Doughty reached back to his solo roots as well as the days when he was in the popular 90’s act and pushed aside that poppy feel Golden Delicious had going on.  This time around there is more of a Soul Coughing vibe and less of the more pop rock he achieved previously.

“Nectarine (Part II)” sequel to song on Golden Delicious was acoustic with a brief add of Irresistible Bliss horns. “(I Keep On) Rising Up” continued with Doughty’s signature raspy hypnotizing voice moving through a more personal jam (he wrote it during hardship in a relationship).  Just after a couple of tracks and it was perfectly clear he was stripped down and focused on the acoustic.

“(You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified)” was a nice smooth rock song with long time touring pal Andrew “Scrap” Livingston taking bass duties.  I should add that this album is just Doughty and Livingston with Doughty providing not just the singing and guitars but also the drum programming and keyboards as well.

“(I Want To) Burn You (Down)” was a poignant acoustic jam reminiscent to the days when Doughty would play shows and would sell CDs himself from the stage after wards when he was trying to get back on his feet. “Pleasure On Credit” clearly reached back to his witty Soul Coughing days. I don’t think it was possible for me to enjoy this song more so than I did the first time I heard it.

Ending the CD with a Daniel Johnston cover completed this album for me. Hearing Doughty’s take on “Casper The Friendly Ghost” had me smiling.  The version was not nearly as depressing as the original schizophrenic take but still held on to Daniel Johnston’s eerie original.

It’s great to see that Mike Doughty keeps on going and Sad Man, Happy Man shows no form of slowing down.  It sounded throughout the album as if he was just having fun without getting too serious and to me that is what I admire him most for.  With all the hell the man has been though he never seemed to stop having fun doing what he loved – play music, and loving it while doing so.

Not just a musician but also an outspoken blogger.  Check out Mike Doughty’s blog site.  He’s not just a clever song writer you know…


Looks like I missed out on a little Q&A at the Beachland…  The tour was called the Question Jar Tour.  Looks like they took it very literally.  Damn me for getting sick!

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