At what point do you upgrade a band's status from side project to
primary musical outlet? Singer/songwriter Scott McCaughey has
been releasing The Minus 5 projects for over a decade now,
and since about the year 2000 or so, this outfit has been far more
active than The Young Fresh Fellows, which is his "other"
band. Without a doubt, The Minus 5 is adding the most new music to
McCaughey's career these days.
The Minus 5, also called The Gun Album, is appropriately
nicknamed, because two of its first five song titles include weaponry
references. The opener goes by "Rifle Called Goodbye," and
it's followed up shortly thereafter with one dubbed "With a Gun,"
which finds McCaughey singing, "I like you with a gun" over
a folk-influenced acoustic rhythm. Throughout the years, McCaughey's
lyrics have alternated uneasily between songs-as-jokes, and other
more serious sentiments. The mood is mostly serious here, however.
You get the impression during "Bought A Rope," for instance,
that McCaughey is only half joking - if even that - when he sings:
"I never wanna let you go, and that's why I bought this rope."
McCaughey's musical association with Wilco's Jeff
(alt.country) Tweedy is clearly beginning to rub off on him,
as country elements find their way into quite a few of these new tracks.
"Cemetery Row", "Cigarettes Coffee And Booze",
and "Bought A Rope" are all colored by pedal steel guitar.
In fact, very little of this work truly rocks. One conspicuous exception
is "Aw Shit Man", which hurdles at a punk-ish speed. Oftentimes,
this work conjures up the spirit of The Beatles in significant
places, as with the keyboard plunks and John Lennon vocals
that drive "Rifle Called Goodbye," or due to McCaughey's
more George Harrison-y singing during "All Worn Out."
The Minus 5 may have begun as a concept; one that gave McCaughey
a good excuse to gather up his friends and make their favorite kinds
of music together. The Gun Album is fully loaded with smart
'n sweet songs, however, which raises it far above being something
merely conceptual. With The Gun Album The Minus 5 hits its
targets almost every time.
1. Rifle Called Goodbye
2. Aw Shit Man
3. Out There on the Maroon
4. My Life As A Creep
5. With a Gun
6. Cemetery Row )
7. Twilight Distillery
8. Cigarettes Coffee and Booze
9. Leftover Life to Kill
10. Hotel Senator
11. Bought A Rope
12. All Worn Out
13. Original Luke
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