The Minus 5:Minus 5 In Rock
A rock-solid effort from Minus 5. The band's new CD is vibrant and energetic with its hooky Beatle-esque twists and guitars.

By Jim Abbott
Source: Sentinel Pop Music Critic
The Minus 5, Minus 5 In Rock (Yep Roc): Scott McCaughey's loosely organized collective last surfaced a year ago with Down With Wilco, a well-timed collaboration in the wake of that band's brilliant Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Minus 5 In Rock shows that McCaughey's side project -- a diversion from Young Fresh Fellows and his work with R.E.M. -- doesn't need anyone else's buzz.

A few more transcendent songs wouldn't hurt, but In Rock is still more vibrant and raucously energetic than the country-tinged Wilco. There's Beatle-esque harmonic twists and exuberant guitars that recall the Animals and other 1960s touchstones.

If the influences sound vintage, it's worth noting that new In Rock isn't really new at all. Except for four tracks recorded last year, it's a reissue of an album released four years ago by Book Records, which produced only 1,000 copies.

A memo to the Grammy producers: If someone is going to imitate the Beatles, please consider the Minus 5's "The Girl I Never Met" over anything that Sting, Vince Gill and Dave Matthews might do.

Obviously, the Minus 5 collective -- which includes R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and cameos by Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding -- doesn't have the star power of the Grammys faux Fab Four.

But it's worth the sacrifice for the cascading harmonies and easy acoustic guitar on McCaughey's "The Girl I Never Met," which sounds like the best Rubber Soul outtake you could ever imagine.

Elsewhere, threads of cheesy organ are threaded through positively groovy up-tempo songs such as the anthemic "Dear My Inspiration." McCaughey spends the first 60 seconds of the two-minute song searching for love and the second half proclaiming "It's you! It's you! It's you! It's you!"

The well-worn "Gloria" guitar riff is regurgitated for "Lies of the Living Dead," which adds maracas to the garage mix. That song, along with the redundant "Dr Evil: Doctor of Evil," marks a stretch where the songwriting doesn't elevate the nostalgia. The organ in the latter sounds like a Doors ripoff.

If McCaughey had eliminated about half these songs, In Rock might be exceptional. As it is, the hooky songs share too much time with lesser fare -- and that's not a plus.
Copyright 2004, Orlando Sentinel