The Minus 5

The Minus 5 (Yep Roc)

More a collective than a literal band, the Minus 5 is Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey's vehicle for writing the perfect pop song, 1960s-style (i.e., inspired by era archetypes the Beatles, the Kinks, etc.). This time around, the 5 includes John Wesley Harding, luminaries from Wilco, and, of course, recurring collaborator Peter Buck of R.E.M. Make no mistake, though: McCaughey's well-crafted songs, cozy Ray Davies-like singing, and sardonic attitude are the stars. While the frontman does indeed draw upon the yearning, fragile melodicism and crisply jangling guitars of that still-bountiful decade, his lyrics are as tartly cynical as those of Steely Dan and Elliott Smith; on the lilting "With a Gun," McCaughey sweetly intones, "I'll kick your sister's ass/I'm gonna take your brother's face and smash it in the grass," the song reverberating like a lost Byrds gem. There are also occasional country-rock overtones on The Minus 5, like the forlorn, Dylanesque "Cemetery Row," featuring a gorgeously sighing pedal-steel guitar solo. Not everything's gold — "Aw Shit Man" is an inane throwaway — but there's enough goodness here to cement McCaughey's rep as a power-popster of the highest order.

 
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