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iTunes Review

Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey refuses to be slowed by the practical aspects of the music business. The 2009 Minus 5 release, Killingsworth, named after a thoroughfare that borders Northeast Portland, Oregon’s Alberta Arts District, was released simultaneously with the Fellows’ album I Think This Is. McCaughey’s voluminous collection of friends soldier in and out. R.E.M.’s Peter Buck finds his 12-string. John Moen (Dharma Bums, Jicks, Decemberists) supports on multiple instruments and the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow wanders among the proceedings. The result is an understandably loose and casual affair that sounds like a campfire singalong without the campfire. “Scott Walker’s Fault” includes a melody swiped from Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” “Big Beat Up Moon” begins with a swaggering acoustic guitar augmented by spiky electric intrusions. “Ambulance Dancehall” veers from Dylanesque folk to ‘60s girl group pop. “Gash In the Cocoon” and “Tonight You’re Buying Me a Drink, Bub” throw in a pedal steel for a tilt towards

Customer Reviews

Scott McCaughey indulges his Ray Davies jones

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]


Formed: 1993 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Minus 5 began life as a side project of the Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey, who formed the band in 1993. McCaughey designed the Minus 5 as a pop collective, and each record the group released featured a new lineup. Throughout these releases, he worked the most frequently with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who was featured on the group's eponymous debut EP, which was only released through They Might Be Giants' mail-order record club, Hello Records. By the time they recorded their full-length debut...
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Top Albums and Songs by The Minus 5

Killingsworth, The Minus 5
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