Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Soul Coughing: El Oso [Slash/Warner Bros., 1998]
They wish they could call it Il Oso, counterposing parallel verticals against circle-squiggle-circle palindrome in a visualization of their true passion: abstraction. They can't, of course, Spanish is Spanish just like groove is groove, and because they know the fundamental things apply, their abstractions still hit you in the gut. Voice-keyb-bass up top are distinct and autonomous constituents, a cable not a gumbo, with the upright romanticism of Sebastian Steinberg and try-anything soundplay of Mark De Gli Antoni providing human touch--as they'd better, because rather than anchoring or signposting, M. Doughty's words establish his intelligence and then bounce us back into the aural construct for emotion and such. You may say you pine for his sarcasm. But he'll just wonder if you thought he'd be corny forever. A-