The Music Mill, 3720 E. 82nd St.
Wednesday, March 19, 8:30 p.m., $15, 18+
Mike Doughty is still looking for fresh ways to unload his head, but his new album and tour might be the closest he’s come to revisiting the sound of his genre-smashing ’90s band, Soul Coughing.
Though he often works alone, Doughty tackled his latest collection, Golden Delicious, as a band project. He is now playing for six weeks across North America with the album’s core musicians, including frequent collaborator Andrew “Scrap” Livingston on bass, John Kirby (Black Eyed Peas) on keyboards and drummer Pete McNeal (Cake) on drums. He’ll play a Wednesday night show at the Music Mill presented by 92.3 WTTS.
“In a sense, it’s a return to a Soul Coughing kind of thing, but Pete’s a more sensual kind of drummer, more laid-back and groovy,” Doughty said.
He’s eager to hear how the band develops on the road, and he’s also enthused about the tour’s support act. The Panderers is a minimalist roots-rock combo that Doughty’s own band members assembled around Indiana singer-songwriter Scott Wynn. Doughty liked Wynn’s songs enough that he decided to launch a label, Snack Bar, and release the Panderers’ debut EP, Hotshot’s Boy.
As for his own album, Golden Delicious is Doughty’s second release on Dave Matthews’ ATO label and another example of his ability to blend disparate influences. His lyrics and persona drip with a decidedly Caucasian indie-rock slacker nerd vibe, as suggested by titles like “I Wrote a Song about Your Car” and “I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep on Dancing.” But the rhythms are rooted in R&B, and the vocals often slip into hip-hop rhyme flow and sing-songy group chants.
The album opens with “Fort Hood,” a tune whose catchy groove disguises a poignant rumination on the casualties of war. Doughty often traffics in irony, but in this case he seems heartfelt, almost awkwardly so, when he borrows the “Let the Sun Shine In” chorus from Hair to evoke the Vietnam era.
“We’re looking to get out of the darkness, and we’re looking to transcend this terrible time in our history,” he said. “An American kid goes from this carefree life that he has and comes back with the burden of the war in his brain. Who knows how long it takes to get those nightmares out of your head?”