The Minus 5 

Down with Wilco

If you hadn't heard of indie popster Scott McCaughey's side project the Minus 5 before this year, that's because he hadn't yet collaborated with Wilco, and everything Wilco touches now glows with residual brilliance from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy's first band Uncle Tupelo opened for McCaughey's main band Young Fresh Fellows in 1988, and they've been compadres ever since. After years of trying, they've brought their different styles together on record.

Down with Wilco is a McCaughey project first and foremost, full of catchy and irreverent indie pop. His quirky wit shines bright, with Wilco's sonic machinations and idiosyncratic arrangements filling out the mix, making for a fun combination.

McCaughey has a gift for crafting innocent 1960s pop hooks -- but his cynicism is purely for the 21st century. Simple rhythms with bubblegum melodies evoke memories of the Beatles and early Pink Floyd on songs such as "Days of Wine and Booze," while Wilco's influence provides a dark undertone. His ironic flair is readily discerned on "I'm Not Bitter," where he sings cheerfully, "I walk around the block just to avoid you, and that's when I'm in a good mood," before he launches into the chorus, "But I'm not bitter." His anthem for working stiffs, "Dear Employer," is a shining moment of lyrical humor. In this musical two-week notice, he sings of why he's quitting, listing among the charges, "Your escalators are very dangerous on the way down/They rip the skin, and pull you in." The sparseness of "The Family Gardener" is the most Wilco-like track here, except that the song is about being a gardener -- not really a Tweedy topic.

If you spun Foxtrot until you burned a hole in it, you'll find a new love with Down with Wilco. But don't look for any alt.country here. This is indie pop: pure, simple, and fun.

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