Bumbershoot Preview: The Minus 5

photo by Allison Nesis

photo by Alison Nesis

by Chris Estey

Scott McCoughey is ON FIRE! The Young Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5 singer-guitarist founder has two really fine new albums out from both these Pacific NW groups, as well as a thematic project with Steve Wynn, REM’s Pete Buck, and Linda Pitman titled The Baseball Project. On Monday, September 7, at 1:30 PM, it will be “the 5” as his selected performing voice (arm?) for the Bumbershoot festival, but I have the feeling that we’re all in for some treats, considering how his famous hobo pal players roll with him.

Most of my iPod playing has been from all three of these albums his label Yep Roc has just put out virtually all at the same time. The Minus 5’s Killingsworth is a (seemingly) mellower, more layered affair than the brittle and barking The Gun Album (one of my very favorite records of 2006). It’s the eighth studio release for the band, which was started as a side project in the early 90s after McCoughey had worked hard putting YFF in the leagues of cult rock heroes. He moved to Portland from Seattle and changed up his sound a but, though retaining its garage stomp looseness and wicked burn humor.

The Minus 5’s frequent contributor has always been Buck (as McCoughey plays as a member of REM, and they both help out Robyn Hitchcock as Venus 3!), but many other moody and talented Ecotopia-dystopians bash and yarl here as well. That includes Colin Meloy, smoothly crooning halfway through on the new record the way Jeff Tweedy had popped up on the last one, also guesting on another butter-Scotch bitter-Scott tune.

Of course, they’re all different projects, but Buck flows from one to another, and if the new Young Fresh Fellows’ I Think This Is release sounds perkier, it’s probably because of Kurt Bloch and the fact that Minus 5 is less a group effort and not as tied to a power pop history. I would love to suggest though that anyone who would like either of these albums shouldn’t miss The Baseball Project (Volume One: Frozen Ropes and Flying Quails), as the playing is really punchy and the stories told about “Ted Fucking Williams,” “Harvey Haddix,” and “The Yankee Flipper” are as funny and catchy as anything on the non-conceptual releases.

The Minus 5 album is the most substantial work though, and the line-up could be a throng of absinthe-soaked accordion playing college girls and I wouldn’t be surprised; as sturdy and reliable as McCoughey’s songcraft is on Killingsworth, anything might happen at 1:30 PM on Monday, September 7 at the Starbucks Stage.

The Minus 5 perform “Little Black Egg” Neumo’s 12/10/08

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