1994, Music

Ruby Vroom (1994) by Soul Coughing

Beginning sometime in the mid to late ’80s, there was a curious trend in the UK where a bunch of white guys began to appropriate much of the music of hip hop to make music that was, mostly, decidedly not hip hop. This music has very little rap in it (sometimes absolutely none) and had more in common with industrial and shoegaze and other genres. It was (mostly) basically alternate rock, but made with samplers and drum machines and other non-rock instruments in addition to the usual rock instruments. And it’s a diverse enough group of bands that there is not one name for it, instead there were a bunch of different genres impacted by this.

But, to the best of my knowledge, this just didn’t happen in the US. Maybe it was because the US was the source of hip hop but, whatever the reason, the phenomenon seems almost entirely British. Except, of course, for Soul Coughing.

The thing about Soul Coughing that makes basically all of what I said kind of irrelevant is that they don’t sound anything like the British bands that came before them. Presumably that’s because the source material is different, and because these guys are nearly just as interested in jazz as they are in hip hop, while basically all the British bands I’m alluding to ignored jazz altogether.

Anyway, I guess that’s all a very long way of saying this is a pretty unique record. I don’t know of much else that sounds like it. There are times when they sound sort of like some band or another, but then they will do something different in the song and remove that sense of familiarity. (Doughty’s voice reminds me of somebody but I just can’t think of who.)

My biggest problem with it is that it’s just not my thing. There are things I like but there are more things I just don’t entirely love. That will likely change with repeated listens but, at the moment, I am stuck in that space where I listen to it and appreciate it for its uniqueness, rather than like or love it for that distinction.

But I know of nothing else like it. And I think that’s pretty high praise.


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