For brief stretch of time, my adult beverage of choice was a velvet crush. I didn’t pick up on this from friends or family or even some intrepid bartender who could somehow spot that I’d be a sucker for the combination of sugary, “fruit”-flavored water and hard liquor, but because Soul Coughing sang about it in a song. The opening lyrics to the song “Mr. Bitterness” place the setting as a bar called The Bitter Seed and describes a woman who we will come to know as alluring and aloof. She drinks a velvet crush. Lead singer M. Doughty helpfully explains, “That’s Kool Aid and gin.” Those few words were all the recipe I needed, and the velvet crush become a short-term staple in our house.
Now, I should not that discovering a agreeable libation was the least of the rewards to be culled from Ruby Vroom, the debut album by Soul Coughing. Released in the fall of 1994, it arrived over a year after my graduation when my desire to remain connected to college rock was getting stronger by the day. So any time I connected with a new band, especially one that sounded fairly different from most everything else in my collection, I considered it a major win. And Soul Coughing struck my ear as very unique, marked by a blissfully pop-soaked brand of free jazz and Doughty’s clever lyrics and singing that made it seem like he’d been diverted into the studio from a spoken word festival and no one bothered to tell him. Even if the specificity of the words means some of the references are now comically dated, most of the album still sounds remarkable fresh nearly twenty years later. It was more than a life preserver tethering me to my beloved radio alma mater, it was clearly a good album in its own respect.
And now I wish I had a velvet crush.
Listen or download –> Soul Coughing, “Mr. Bitterness”
(Disclaimer: While I’m somewhat skeptical of this one, it appears that Ruby Vroom is currently unavailable as a physical object that can purchased from a local, independently-owned record store. It can obtained digitally, but who knows how much money the band gets from that anyway, especially since it’s selling for an extremely low price in most of the spots I found it. Regardless, it’s shared here with the understanding that offering one free song will cause no real fiscal harm to the artist or the proprietor of the previously mentioned record store. Still, I will gladly and promptly remove this track from the interweb if asked to do so by someone with due authority to make such a request.)