After upping the energy on his second record, 2008's Golden Delicious, to a mixed response from fans and reviewers, on Sad Man Happy Man Mike Doughty returns to acoustic folk; to the pared-down version of his '90s band Soul Coughing's funk-infused, downtown jazz-embracing indie rock that made his solo debut such a delight. Half Brooklyn hipster aging delightfully gracelessly, half pre-electric Dylan, Doughty muses over lost loves and lusts, throws in odd references, abstract couplets that, defying logic, retain meaning, and crafts bohemian characters past, present, and future. Since his days fronting the 120 Minutes-feted band, Doughty's been the master of his own brand of half-Beat mantra half-rap, and he doesn't take long to return to the repetition well. By the second track, "(I Keep On) Rising Up," he's skipping lyrical grooves, and on the next track, "(You Should Be) Doubly (Gratified)," he's practically in his usual scat trance; it's predictable, but oh so comfortable, and his prose poetry loses no substance during all the verbal substance. He continues to switch tacks effortlessly, dropping a straightforward Ani DiFranco-esque modern folk ballad on "(I Want To) Burn (You Down)," before returning to the underground hip-hop off-beat vigor of "Pleasure on Credit." Doughty closes (fittingly) on a reverent cover of Daniel Johnston's "Caspar the Friendly Ghost," a sweetly off-kilter product of another merrily fevered mind. While Sad Man Happy Man is nothing particularly new, it's a thoroughly fun and gleefully disorienting effort from one of the alternative era's truly unique pop artists.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Thurston