Mike Doughty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Whatever happened to the Great White Pseudo-Rap Class of 1994? Well, Beck went on to actual rock stardom (for a while there, anyway), while the mush-mouthed G. Love & Special Sauce have been reduced to serving as the house band on Ben Stein's Comedy Central interview show. And, as always, Soul Coughing--specifically front man Mike Doughty--falls somewhere in between. The group's three albums, Ruby Vroom, Irresistible Bliss, and El Oso, never really broke the college-rock barrier, but on a good night Doughty's sharp verse and the band's rhythmic fluency and smart use of samples--Raymond Scott, Howlin' Wolf, the Andrews Sisters--made them one of the most ferocious live acts I've ever seen. Since the group's amicable breakup in 1999, Doughty has kept busy, working with southern California dance producer BT (he sings the crossover hit "Never Gonna Come Back Down") and touring solo, performing acoustic versions of Soul Coughing material and new songs he's recording for an impending album. Which, by the way, won't be Doughty's solo debut: in 1995 Shimmydisc impresario Kramer produced a skeletal acoustic session titled Skittish, which Doughty began selling at gigs last year after some mixes leaked out on Napster. Though most of the songs on it aren't on par with Soul Coughing's best work, they are strikingly direct and melancholy--and they include a killer cover of Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" that interpolates the Feelies' "It's Only Life." Tuesday and Wednesday, May 8 and 9, 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.


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