Sad Man Happy Man
Mike Doughty’s last album Golden Delicious was a poppy affair, and critics met it with either great praise (like me) or great disdain. He used a lot more “la la las” and other gibberish than his trademark lyrical wit (which I thought was still there). Doughty took the criticism to heart and has come back with a much more acoustic (and less gibberish-filled) follow-up, Sad Man Happy Man.
The opening “Nectarine (Pt. Two)” sets the tone of the album with just Doughty, his guitar, and a cello blissfully introducing the acoustic folk-pop that encompasses Sad Man Happy Man. The track also includes one of my favorite lines, “[I] Wanna love you senselessly there in bed.” The following track, “(I Keep On) Rising Up” is a head-bobbin’ pop gem with Doughty proclaiming “Everyday I’m rising up.”
The best track is the finger-pickin’ stop rhythm of “(I Want to) Burn You (Down).” His songwriting is particularly biting when he says, “I’m having troubles with my girl/ She treats me like a parole officer/ She checks in from time to time/ Always insisting everything’s fine.”
Doughty’s distinct vocals have never been better as he half-sings, half-raps on “(You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified)” and “(He’s Got the) Whole World (In His Hands).” The pounding acoustic rocker “Lord Lord Help Me Just to Rock Rock On” vocally pushes Doughty to the brink as he repeats the title with more and more gusto until he shreds his vocal cords as if it’s the last thing he gets to do. The album ends with a killer cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” proving that Doughty can not only write a great song, but cover one as well.
Doughty admits, “The audience seems to like what I did two years ago better. You think I could shrug [the criticism] off because that’s what always happens, but it always gets to me.” He took that criticism and made a 33-minute blitz of an album, with only three of the 13 songs over three minutes long. Fans of Doughty’s older solo work will be thrilled with this return to his roots. Everybody else who has not heard him will discover they have a new favorite artist.
Mike Doughty: www.mikedoughty.com