It’s not new–not even remotely–but this song is timeless. It’s the type of song that doesn’t lean on newness or novelty for it’s relevance in the contemporary sphere–at least in my contemporary sphere. It’s the type of song that doesn’t rely on status as ‘classic’–because it isn’t remotely classic or all that well-known, even–to be immortalized in the ears of anybody who hears it. As I currently listen to it via Spotify, the song has only registered 1,630,219 plays on the platform. I alone am probably to thank for those final 219.
Let me explain my introduction to Soul Coughing. For six years I took weekly private drum lessons with the same teacher–Zach Field–who you’ve absolutely heard of if you live in the Newburyport area and have any sort of ties to the music/art/culture scene . Zach was less of an instructor to me as he was a spiritual mentor, a confidant, a refuge. Lessons evolved from hard-boiled rudimentary drills (“The Rudimental Ritual,” accompanied by bossa nova or bayonne patterns on the feet) in the early years, to preparations for auditions, to just hanging out and chewing the cud while playing along to whatever we’d each been listening to in our free time.
Zach introduced me to Mike Doughty, who deserves a post in his own right. The dude is fascinating. A poet, musician, song-writer–he’s just overall cool-as-fuck. We played along to his song “27 Jennifers.” I’d developed a bit of a crush on an older girl named Jennifer at the time, so this song was especially loaded with latent meaning for me (“16 Jens, 10 Jennies and then there was her”). So loaded it was, I ate it up. A Mike Doughty style baked-potato skin overflowing with the melted cheese and bacon bits that come along with being a “lovestruck” sixteen year old. I paid 99 cents for it on iTunes (this was around the year 2008 B.S. (Before Spotify)) and immersed myself in it, imagining romantic vacations with this older girl Jennifer.
“Super Bon Bon” was released on the 1996 album “Irresistible Bliss.” Front-man Mike Doughty was the scribe behind the lyrics and he was also the scratchy, grumbly, growly vessel through which they’re delivered to the listener. So, intrigued by Mike Doughty, I dove into the warm, easy pool of internet research and dug up what I could.
I found Soul Coughing. I didn’t like it.
So for–oh I don’t know, six years or so–I limited my Mike Doughty exposure to his solo stuff. Fairly optimistic, easy listening (note: “Circles,” by Soul Coughing is in the same vein). Until I became older and disillusioned with the world. Innocent crushes of 2008/2009 were things of the past. I became a deeper darker person with deeper darker music tastes (just ask my roommates from junior year of college). I searched for sonic stimulation that reverberated off the obsidian ocean bed beneath the opaque seas of what I thought myself to be.
Re-enter: Soul Coughing. Re-enter: “Super Bon Bon.”
The opening tandem of the bass’s subdued aggression and the drums’ splashy open hi-hat (marking the segue from the end of the phrase to the beginning of it’s repetition) and under-appreciated tambourine provide the perfect canvas which Doughty paints with low gravelly ramblings of “move aside and let the man go through, let the man go through”–all of these loosely gelatinous sounds coagulate into an amalgam that I can only describe as a grungy walk-out song. That’s exactly how I treat it.
When I’m guilted into attending social outings, “Super Bon Bon” is what I listen to as I dress myself, getting ready for small-talk and cocktails–feigned interest and strained smiles.
Before I go to work, it is “Super Bon Bon” that I listen to. The little Doughty within shouting in my ear over scratchy guitar: “SUPER BON BON SUPER BON BON SUPER BON BON!” He also says something about a mezzanine, and Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine is in my top five favorite books, so, y’know, all the more reason to love the song. There’s a little grungy man within me, screaming “SUPER BON BON!” reminding me that I’ll get through this day and my base, basement-dwelling id will soon be relieved of the suppression I subject it to as I endure the day-to-day. It’s the type of song that begs to be listened to in front of a mirror, as you nod your head and slowly let yourself devolve into some kind of gesticulating monster, peeling off layers via head-bangs.
Just listen to the song. I love it. If you’re like me, you’ll love it. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably like me.