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Scott McCaughey indulges his Ray Davies jones
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 07/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After the Beatle-esque pop of 2007's The Minus 5, this Scott McCaughey-led collective returns with a new lineup and a twangier country-rock sound. McCaughey and companion Peter Buck are back, alongside Colin Meloy, additional members of the Decemberists and other guests. As on all of the collective's albums, McCaughey's vocals and songs provide the binding component, the latter of which include a healthy dose of downbeat, troubled and troubling themes. Pedal steel, banjo and general melancholy make a straightforward match to the lyrical tenor, with McCaughey sounding remarkably like Ray Davies in his mid-period Kinks prime - in both nasal vocal tone and social content.
The album opens with the bitter remains of a failed courtship and closes with the despondent misery of a troubled and broke bar fly. In between McCaughey offers the sort of opaque lyrics he's written regularly for both the Minus Five and the Young Fresh Fellows. His titles and lyrics intimate deeper personal meanings, but they're not always easily revealed. He resurfaces for a portrait of the working musician's nightmare, "The Lurking Barrister," he eyes unsparing isolation and social decay in "Big Beat Up Moon" and excoriates fundamentalism with "I Would Rather Sacrifice You." The Kinks vibe is strong on "Vintage Violet," with the She Bee Gees singing along as a girl-group Greek chorus.
McCaughey's used the ever-shifting membership of the Minus Five to give each of the "band's" releases a distinct flavor. In contrast, the parallel release by the Young Fresh Fellows, I Think This Is, has to work to recapture the group's vibe. McCaughey's jokey, ironic and sometimes startlingly penetrating songs support both bands, but the free hand of perpetual reinvention gives an edge to the Minus Five. Without having to hit a specific musical or emotional tone, the Minus Five indulges whatever is currently running around McCaughey's head. This year it seems to be (among other things) Muswell Hillbillies. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]"
Minus 5 gets 5 stars
William P. Visser | Clayton, North Carolina United States | 07/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All I can say is that The Minus 5 should make more music. Clever lyircs, and solid music. A great combination. I have most of The Minus 5's albums and some Young Fresh Fellows and this by far is my favorite. The band was great. I love the She Bee-Gees. I'm lookng forward to The Minus 5's next album."
Excellent return of the Minus 5
Paul Allaer | Cincinnati | 10/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let me state upfront that I thought the Minus 5's 2003 beautifully sarcastically titled "Down With Wilco" album was one fantastic release (one that I keep playing with regularity), and then I sorta lost track of these guys. Scott McCaughey is the main singer-songerwriter behind this band, with help from lots of friends (more on that later). While the Minus 5 has steadily released albums over the years (but not touring much--more on that later too), I recently picked up this album, the band's 8th studio album.
"Killingsworth" (14 tracks; 42 min.) starts off with a beautiful "Dark Hand of Contagion" which sets the tone for the album. McCaughey again on this album calls on his friends, including among others Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and John Moen (Decemberists) to round out the sound, to great effect. The steel pedal is a commonly-heard theme on this album, but don't call this album 'country', for real. The band cruises through 14 songs in just 42 min., making their (musical) point, and moving on. It makes for a great listening experience from start to finish. Highlights for me include "It Won't Do You Any Good" (as catchy as anything on here), "Big Beat Up Moon", and "Your Favorite Mess", but thruth be told, there are no weak tracks on here.
I had never seen the Minus 5 in concert, and I was all excited and set to go see them when they came to Cincinnati not long ago, and then something came up (outside my control), sigh. Would've loved to see how these songs translated in a live setting. I heard nothing but great things from friends who attended the show. I can only hope to catch them again some other time, even though they don't tour much. Meanwhile, "Killingsworth" is highly recommended!"