Now that my vacation is over, I have all this “holiday weight” to burn off – approximately 10lbs worth I figure. So this evening, I’m kick-starting my weekly He-man workouts at the gym and I’m back hitting the heavy iron.
My heavy-hitting tunes this evening then belong to the ‘El Oso‘ album by Soul Coughing.
‘El Oso’ (Spanish for The Bear), was released in 1998 and represents the third and final album by the New York City neo-hipsters….before “hipster” was even a thing. Let’s call this the “pre-Beard Glitter” era. The album is marked by a deep drum and bass influence which, typically, isn’t my thing but, hey, this ain’t your typical drum and bass.
In fact, there’s lots to love in this album. ‘300‘ is based on a sample of a Chris Rock joke; singer Mike Doughty heard the joke which is back-masked on Rock’s ‘Roll with the New’. Curious, Doughty recorded it into his ASR-10 sampler with the intention of simply reversing it and seeing what the joke was, and wrote the song around what he found there.The album also yielded the bands biggest hit single, ‘Circles‘ which features overdubbed harmonies partnered with a bleeping synth. The album is just so cool, so groove-worthy, so tripped-out…some songs (‘Pensacola‘, ‘The Incumbant‘) rank up with the weirdest tunes I’ve ever heard. And in this case, “weird” is good.
‘Misunderstood‘, ‘Houston‘ and ‘Miss the Girl‘ are also great songs in and of themselves. ‘Rolling‘, the album opener, is especially interesting, particularly when partnered with it’s crazy video – an old black and white Betty Boop – that was once featured on the Cartoon Network (slick HERE) late at night. Imagine watching that tripped out of your gourd at 1:00am in the morning.
The album highlight, however, is ‘St. Louis Is Listening‘, whose pulsing rhythm and drive measure up to a steadily-rolling freight train. It is a “must have” staple to may of my spinning and running playlists…it’s that awesome. Just try and not get jacked up as the drive and rhythm of the song escalate and escalate to a near fever pitch.
Impossible, I tell ya.
The Bottom Line is: ‘El Oso‘ solidifies the band status as true (underappreciated) musical geniuses. It is a tribute to their talent that they can change their sound yet their music remains immediately recognizable.