"Coward's Path" witty, clever and relatable
By Bradley T. Schuman
I’ll admit it up front: This isn’t a new album, it isn’t local, and I’ve got a biased opinion.
Mishka Shubaly is a weird and brilliant guy. He’s an author, he’s a musician, and his stories feel like a comedy act that’s dark enough that you’re forced to laugh, because it’d be more uncomfortable not to.
He was in town early in October, playing a small show at the Aux Dog Theater. I love the guy’s music, and found out he was playing on a Tuesday by accident. Tickets were cheap, I didn’t have anything else to do, and it was date night.
Mishka’s live act consists of him, a guitar and a microphone. The studio album “Coward’s Path” has a little more instrumentation than the live show, but the heart and soul of the thing is Mishka’s guitar, his broken-glass-on-top-of-a-quart-of-vodka vocals and a whole lot of dark-as-pitch lyrics.
Mishka’s sober now, but the album doesn’t explore sobriety, ultramarathons or any of the other insane stuff he’s done that he goes into in his book “I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You.”
If Mishka’s first album was the soundtrack to a life of booze-sodden regrets, “Coward’s Path” is a goddamn symphony of bitter weirdness, jaded exes and a back-breaking crash through rock bottom and into whatever is under that.
“Your Stupid Dreams” is my favorite track off the album, a fatalistic lullaby for the kids he’ll never have. It’s about giving up before life makes that decision for you. Mishka’s advice to that imaginary kid: “No, it’s never too early to throw in the towel / But it’s always too late to die with dignity.”
“I Can’t Remember When You Were Mine” asks the question “Boxes and boxes of unlabeled crap / If I die now / Will they ever get unpacked?” If you’ve ever had a breakup where your ex moved on with life before you even understood what the hell happened, this is your song.
“Pickup Lines” might be the closest thing you’re going to get to a chipper song – if you can so imagine a swaying tattooed reprobate propositioning you, bolstered by a stomach full of whiskey and maybe just a touch too much honesty about his intentions.
“New Jersey Valentine’s Day Orphan Blues” is a love song. At least, I think it’s a love song. It’s an invitation for some terrible girl to run away and be terrible together, in a car packed with liquor and drugs, driving into a disappointing future. “Taxes and Jail” certainly describes a vision of what being trapped in that future would look like: “Oh, what the hell / Let’s raise a glass to pretending we never met.”
The album closes out on “Your Plus One at My Funeral,” and the title says it all. It completes the squalid ride through Mishka’s past, and he isn’t trying to send you away with a smile or a lesson learned. He’s got a story to tell, and he doesn’t care if you’re comfortable while he tells it in all its tarnished, drug-addled, liquor-soaked glory.
Bradley T. Schuman is a pop culture geek and music nerd with far too many records and opinions.