Release Date: Mar 10, 2015
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Scott McCaughey is a talented guy who happens to have a lot of talented friends, and when he hangs out in his basement with his buddies, the results tend to be a lot more interesting than your brother-in-law and his fantasy football league or video game tournaments. McCaughey has a small recording studio in his cellar he's dubbed the Dungeon of Horror, and in 2014 he released a vinyl-only box set, Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror, compiled from unreleased songs he'd recorded at home with such notable pals as Peter Buck, Jeff Tweedy, Ian McLagan, John Moen and Nate Query (of the Decemberists), Linda Pitmon (from the Baseball Project and Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3), and Kurt Bloch (of the Fastbacks). That box set, credited to McCaughey's ad hoc group the Minus 5, sold out its limited-edition run of 750 in no time flat, and for those folks who missed it, McCaughey has given them a second chance with Dungeon Golds, which gives a wider release to 12 songs from the set.
Scott McCaughey isn’t usually a one man band. But his alias as The Minus 5 shows, over the course of nine previous albums starting in 1989, that regardless of who he invites for sessions, the music reflects his personality and vision. He is also a nightmare for diehard collectors who likely have problems keeping up with his ample output, both as the Minus 5 and solo, on various formats, including vinyl, EPs and product not available in the US.
“And though the sicknesses and death/come closer every breath/I’ve got no last requests/it’s beautiful here” is typical of the sentiments you’ll find on the Minus 5’s 10th album—a tad gloomy, but nonetheless delivered with upbeat good cheer. The Minus 5 is an indie-pop supergroup of sorts, founded by the Young Fresh Fellows’ (and R.E.M. touring guitarist) Scott McCaughey, with a rotating cast of characters, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck being the most regular contributor.
"Not ready to die, die, die/Not ready to fold," Scott McCaughey, the guitarist and ringleader of this Pacific Northwest collective, sings in "My Generation," a dirty-glam original that turns the title of the Who's 1965 single into a fighting-senior moment. The 12 songs here first appeared in a limited-edition 2014 five-LP box. This culling from that set, featuring Minus 5 regulars including Peter Buck and Jeff Tweedy, is a welcome sharing of the band's playful way with Sixties pastiche ("It's Magenta, Man!") and vigorous defense of pop classicism's truths and joys.
Minus 5 are a couple of old men having fun on their personal slow treks toward death. Their latest effort Dungeon Golds is essentially a meditation on slowly realizing that you’re no longer the coolest, most attractive, or even most interesting person in the room – and not caring about that at all. The album is full of references to the sort of music that fueled these very cool dads’ interest in crafting music in the first place; in everything from a title track jokingly entitled “My Generation” to the overt Byrd-ishness of near album nightcap “Hold Down the Fort”.
What began some 20 or so years ago as an all-star power pop conglomerate that allowed members to participate on their time off from their day jobs with other outfits, The Minus Five has now evolved into a formal collaboration with an extensive resume of its own. Numerous esteemed stars have participated in the making of each of their ten previous albums — Jeff Tweedy, the late Ian McLagan, Billy Bragg and The Decemberists, among them – but these days Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck remain the dedicated constants. Consequently, Dungeon Gold is more about what the band boasts itself, as opposed to the glittering lights on the marquee.