Remember when almost every other artist that came along had a sound that could be directly traced to the Beatles? The once overused term “Beatlesque” still applies to Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey. He sings like Ringo, spits like John, writes like Paul, and arranges like George. He also gets by with a little help from his friends – McCaughey has been assisting R.E.M. in various instrumental capacities for more than ten years now. His band’s 2003 record, Down With Wilco, was exactly that, and it was recorded with help from Jeff Tweedy and company. Clearly, this is a man who knows how to network.
For The Minus 5, Scott McCaughey’s version of the All-Starr Band includes Wilco’s Tweedy, John Stirratt and Glenn Kotche, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and John Moen, Ministry’s Bill Rieflin, Mott the Hoople’s Morgan Fisher, the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow, Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson, John Wesley Harding and Kelly Hogan (for once, apparently, Emmylou Harris was unavailable for backup). For better or for worse, the collaborative spirit permeates every track.
McCaughey refers to this LP as The Gun Album, which is certainly appropriate. About half of the songs directly cite guns in the lyrics, and in the other half there is likely a concealed weapon within reach. Thematically, the record is a caustic little thing, reveling in mordant humor. The rollicking “Aw Shit Man” has McCaughey bemoaning the dissolution of his marriage and livelihood, trying hard to brush aside that he’s mostly responsible for this predicament. His tongue isn’t always lodged in his cheek, however. “Cemetery Row W14,” a lovely little rewrite of the “Cheers” theme song, is a highlight, in no small part because that’s Colin-fucking-Meloy on the vocals, singing wistfully of “bars on every street” and surmising that said row is “not such a bad place.”
Ultimately, however, The Minus 5 is the indie-rock equivalent of Ocean’s Twelve. Everyone involved is clearly having a blast, and the result for the audience is often infectious. But just as often it is distancing, like watching footage of someone else’s birthday party. Still, we should all have friends like these.
Yep Roc Records Web site