In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re running down some of our favorite songs with a name in the title.
I had a prominent pop-culture awakening the summer after I graduated high school, in large part because that’s when I started dating my first boyfriend, who had the advantage of age over me and was able to hone his tastes in a way I hadn’t yet. I can’t say each piece of pop culture he introduced me to was great. I found some of it horrendous, but a few things stood out that I eventually adopted as my own, freeing them of any connection to lost love. Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty’s second solo album Smofe + Smang is one of them, because I refuse to be denied the good time this sing-along album provides, especially on Doughty’s rendition of Soul Coughing original “Janine.”
As Smofe + Smang was recorded at the Woman’s Club Theater in Minneapolis in 2002, it already had some street cred for me, a kid from rural northern Wisconsin who referred to Minneapolis and St. Paul as “The Cities,” because that was the nearest metro area and therefore negated the existence of all other cities. It seemed as if each of the album’s 25 tracks had inside, cool-kid pop-culture references at a time when I was reading Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, making this my sort of jam. I ate up interludes like “(Bucket Of Shoes In My Foyer),” which riffed on MTV’s Cribs and songs like “Circles,” with its numerous shout-outs, including one to Paul Simon and his legendary single “You Can Call Me Al.”
It was album closer “Janine,” however, that I truly couldn’t get enough of. Doughty is no stranger to the name game (for example, “Madeline And Nine,” also on Smofe + Smang, is essentially the name “Madeline” repeated for three minutes). “Janine” took that game and provided an inspired and interactive experience with its bevy of call-and response action. Doughty creates a slow, almost-spoken-word sing-along that manages to be exhilarating enough for a summer night in front of a bonfire or a road trip with the windows rolled down, as soon as he says, “So I’m thinking it is correct and necessary to have a loud, obnoxious sing-along. Do you dig me?” Yes, yes, you dig him, and your response to his, “in an Axl Rose style,” is your best ’80s impression, wailing “Janine, I drink you up,” while slithering back and forth like the famed skinny frontman would. And if you’ve listened to the track enough, you know exactly when to yell, “FUCK YEAH” into the wind, exercising your uninhibited freedom, whether fledgling or matured.