minusfive05dec

The Gun Album

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7.9
/11}

The Minus Five is a project of Seattle longtime legend* Scott McCaughey, who you can at times see taking Metro to his local gigs, as I did a couple summers back (when he opened for Jon Langford at the Sunset Tavern). I had no idea that the scruffy dude I was sharing the #15 with had accomplished so much, including playing with the iconic Young Fresh Fellows since 1983, forming The Minus Five a decade later, and recording and touring with REM. More importantly, I didn't really know how great a songwriter he was till I saw him open for Langford — and this album is even more convincing of his talents than that wickedly good appearance was.

The Minus Five was originally the resevoir project that McCaughey created to sustain the prolific overflow from his output with the YFF; it has occasionally encompassed projects such as full collaborations with Wilco, as well as appearing on Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. With more back-story than I could ever replay here, let's just note some of the people who play with him as The Minus Five this time around — Peter Buck, Jeff Tweedy, Colin Meloy, John Wesley Harding, Sean Nelson, Ken Stringfellow, to start with — and the album is mostly a jaw-dropping juggernaut of brilliant lyrics, ridiculously good melodies, and sublimely soulful electrified busker rock that never fails to charm.

Starting off with the transcendently tuneful "Rifle Called Goodbye," perhaps a dark story about cause and effect and faith, wrapped up in images about firearms and burning Bibles, The Minus Five moves through guilt and temptation in the knee-and-elbow punk of "Aw Shit" ("Am I going to be an asshole for the rest of my life, aw shit man, and never be forgiven by my daughter and wife, aw shit, man"), drunken regret on "Out There On The Maroon" ("Like a pencil sticking in your neck, this feeling is getting creepy"), and hitting its achingly great peak with fourth track, "My Life As A Creep."

This last song is perhaps torturously self-critical, and is as acerbic and fantastically composed as anything Nick Lowe or Elvis Costello wrote on their first three albums. But from there, this album certainly doesn't drop off in quality, offering the enchanting "With A Gun" (backing by Wilco) before unveiling the gorgeous and depressing conceptual centerpieces "Cemetery Row" and "Twilight Distillery."

{*imaginary ed note: Rumor that Scott McCaughey moved to Portland. And "The Gun Album" is set to release in early February 2006. You can pre-order your copy now.}