Soul Coughing

El Oso

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One approaches this album with trepidation. Can they really do it again? Can the band that single-handedly defined postmodern white-boy funk poetry in 1994 with Ruby Vroom and dodged the sophomore slump with deceptive ease two years later come up with something just as good that isn't simply rehash? The answer is a qualified yes, and they do it by leaving the skeleton -- bare-bones funky drums, big string bass, scratchy guitar -- mostly the same, while fleshing out the vocals a bit and yoking the pointillistic samples to the wagon of the song, at least part of the time. Thus, on "Circles," the album's first single, you have overdubbed harmonies (!) and a bleeping synth that supports the chorus rhythmically. And you could actually sing along with "Blame." That's not to say that this stuff is exactly tuneful -- poetry and groove are still the whole point. But it's nice to hear M. Doughty hauling off and singing every so often. Nothing here packs quite the same revelatory wallop as "Blue-Eyed Devil" or "Casiotone Nation" did, but then, the revelation has already been received. That doesn't make it any less valuable. Or any less funky.

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