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Mike Doughty: Five Essential Police Songs

Mike Doughty (photo courtesy of Chart Room Media, PR)

Mike Doughty (photo courtesy of Chart Room Media, PR)


[July 2018 update: Since 2017, when Mike Doughty released The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns, he's been on the road supporting that album, and has resurrected Soul Coughing's Irresistible Bliss in concert too. He also played a pro-choice fundraiser earlier this summer for the Lady Parts Justice League in Nashville. As for the Police, whom Doughty admires, drummer Stewart Copeland turns 65 on July 16 and will spend that week hosting rock and roll documentaries for HDNet Movies, including "Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out," which he produced.  Sting is still on tour with Shaggy, supporting their collaborative album, 44/876, and the pair will play New York's The Rooftop at Pier 17 on September 26. And Andy Summers was in the area earlier this month— he played two solo shows, at New York's The Cutting Room and East Hampton's Guild Hall.]

Mike Doughty might be based out of Memphis these days, but that doesn't mean that the singer, songwriter, and former Soul Coughing frontman has eschewed either New York or some of his British post-punk influences of the late 1970s and early '80s. In fact, Doughty's new, ninth album, The Heart Watches While The Brain Burns, reflects his eclecticism; it's a lean but rigorous roundup of songs that drives home what a good lyricist and guitarist he's always been, deftly shifting between folk, rock and funk.

Considering the jittery, restless legacy of Soul Coughing and Doughty's experimentation, street poet eloquence, and mutable solo releases, it's not too left field to learn that he really likes the Police, this week's FUV Essentials. Doughty's discerning list of "Five Essential Police Songs" highlights the often unsung impact of guitarist Andy Summers.

Mike Doughty: Five Essential Police Songs:

“Truth Hits Everybody," Outlandos d’Amour (1978)
My thing is the New Wave Police—fast songs—where they really sound like a trio and their individual personalities on their instruments is in stark relief. And the songs go chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk. That technique—palm-muting, it's called—is the first guitar trick I ever learned. And those big, ringing chords on the chorus: so aggressive and exciting.

“Hole in My Life,” Outlandos d’Amour (1978)
My friends and I loved Andy Summers in the early '80s, because there was this stupid culture of guitar players who played many notes real fast; that’s not music, that’s more like track and field. Summers is so distinct and present. You can really feel that guy.

“Canary in a Coalmine," Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
One thing that was great about the early Police was how they distilled reggae into this fast, silvery, stark little animal. I think the fifth (sixth?) wave of ska is inevitable, and I hope they listen to this.

“Secret Journey," Ghost in the Machine (1981)
There was something about Ghost in the Machine—I think it has to do with the way the vocal harmonies are arranged and recorded—that conveys this kind of dread and creepiness. Also, again on the Andy Summers tip: we all went out and got chorus pedals and tried to sound like this.

“On Any Other Day," Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
A Stewart Copeland vocal. Classic New Wave vibe. This is, like, the New Wave song from central casting. “Hello, Central? Send over a New Wave song, stat!” A song about a bigoted suit from the mire of suburban middle England suffering indignities untenable for Whitey. It’s kind of the New Wave version of George Jones’ “Things Have Gone to Pieces.”

- Mike Doughty
March 2017

Read all of WFUV's Five Essential Songs and Albums.