The Minus 5 

Killingsworth

Some bands are essentially associations or collectives built around the lead of one or two players. Steely Dan is one, the Minus 5 is another. The latter act's principals are Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and Peter Buck (REM), accompanied this time 'round by a troupe including members of the Decemberists, Norfolk & Western, Mendoza Line, and the Posies. This lot brings McCaughey's sardonic story-songs to life with flair, confidence, and succinctness. There's little of the droll power-pop of the Fellows — the ambiance is closer to the finely wrought folk-rock and country-flavored lilt of Younger Than Yesterday/Notorious Byrd Brothers-era Byrds, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Beachwood Sparks.

McCaughey's comforting, kindhearted singing evokes late-1960s Ray Davies of the Kinks. He even writes songs like him, although McCaughey doesn't "crib." Killingsworth is full of vignettes rife with glowing yet plainspoken but detailed and trenchant observations borne upon low-key, captivating, cozy melodies. The winsome, tragicomic "Big Beat Up Moon" is an overview of a neighborhood packed with people dis-united by loneliness. "I Would Rather Sacrifice You" is a facetiously stirring country gospel song about a pious Christian soldier devoted to saving the world and killing anyone that gets in the way (I spread the gospel with my gun). Killingsworth is an album to unite two (or more) generations of rockers — get a copy for your friend enamored of Wilco or that parent or sibling who still listens to the Band and Randy Newman. (Yep Roc)

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