The Minus 5: Live 2006
Abbey Pub; Wed 22
Bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughey started the Minus 5 as a side project for the overrun of songs that Seattle’s Young Fresh Fellows, his full-time band from the ’80s and ’90s, wouldn’t record. At any given moment, the personnel was McCaughey plus whomever happened to be around at the time (including Peter Buck of R.E.M., with whom he occasionally tours as an auxiliary member). Because of his ties with Chicago going back to the days when YFF frequently played Chicago’s much-missed Lounge Ax nightclub, McCaughey has some local connections helping him out on the new Yep Roc disc, Minus 5, including Kelly Hogan, John Stirratt and Jeff Tweedy. For the Chicago show, he’ll be helped out by Buck, John Ramberg, Bill Reiflin from Ministry and the Revolting Cocks, and the Silos.
Like the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5 is heavily influenced by mid-’60s pop-rock, paired with a double dose of wiseass humor. While earlier albums were garage-ier, The Minus 5 (a.k.a. “The Gun Album”) is a slightly more elaborate production piece. The hardest rocking song here nearly sounds like a parody (you thought a song called “Aw Shit Man” was going to be a love ballad?). On top of that, it’s a concept album about death. It doesn’t announce itself as such, but between the cover art (a simple drawing of a pistol) and some of the song titles (“With a Gun,” “Cemetery Row,” “Leftover Life to Kill”), it doesn’t take long to add two and two. Rather than being morbid, McCaughey takes the same offhandedly humorous tone that caused him to name an album Down with Wilco (a collaboration he did with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy). Homicidal thoughts never sounded so good—or this funny.—James Porter