Under Review: The Minus 5 – Killingsworth

As I mentioned the other week, Scott McCaughey is one busy fella. You already learned about his resurrection of his power pop outfit, Young Fresh Fellows. Usually, when a musician releases several albums in one year, the quality of the records is either skewed more towards one or is simply lukewarm all around. Such is hardly the case with Killingsworth, the new album from McCaughey’s main bag for the past decade, The Minus 5. A little bit more serious a project than Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5 incorporates bits of country and roots music while still maintaining McCaughey’s smart, pop songwriting. On each Minus 5 disc, you can be guaranteed to find guest musicians galore. Of course, fellow R.E.M. axeman Peter Buck is always on board, as is drummer Bill Rieflin, who is also part of the R.E.M./Baseball Project collective. In the past, members of Wilco have joined the band (on 2003’s aptly-titled Down With Wilco), but this time it’s most of The Decemberists that are featured. Songs on Killingsworth (or any of the Minus 5 albums, for that matter) aren’t what you might expect from someone who plays with such upbeat bands. Starting off with the lightly strummed and steel guitar-haunted “Dark Hand Of Contagion,” Killingsworth at first evokes the sad, lonely expanses of the uncharted American west. The record picks right up with “The Long Hall” and “The Disembowlers,” both of which show off McCaughey’s humorous and intricate songwriting. There are a few more solemn, low-key moments to balance the rollicking tracks, and the lovely “Big Beat Up Moon” meets that task quite well. The only thing about McCaughey’s satirical songwriting is that it makes it hard to take songs like the gospel-y, “Great Atomic Power”-esque “I Would Rather Sacrifice You” seriously. For all I know, it’s not meant to be taken seriously (I mean, it refers to “spreading the gospel with [one’s] gun.”). As silly as its lyrics may or may not be, Killingsworth, like the band that created it, is a gem of modern Americana.

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~ by E. on August 5, 2009.

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