We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The Minus Five

East Side Digital

The Minus Five is the latest proj-ect from unsung bard Scott McCaughey, who has long fronted cult-fave garage-rockers the Young Fresh Fellows. Backed by Peter Buck (whom he lately supported on guitar on R.E.M.’s tour), a couple of Posies, and other notables, McCaughey makes something bigger, almost symphonic, out of classic, simple songs (think Pet Sounds), twisting love and hate in pathological directions. This stunning full-length debut rings with Buck’s warm guitar but reaches for something grander than a hook: Melodies are embellished with jarring piano lines (the dissonant, pastoral “Winter Goes Away”), sultry sax cameos (the breathy, surreal, Robyn Hitchcockian dirge “How Many Bones”), and French horns (the broken-hearted, vengeful “Worse”). The clutter sometimes distracts—McCaughey’s elegant crooning can stand on its own—but his refreshing pokes at self-infatuation (as on the mocking suicide how-to, “Vulture”) refocus the songs, recalling the likes of Davies and Lennon—though quirky songsmiths like Game Theory/Loud Family’s Scott Miller and Tall Dwarves’ Chris Knox are closer kin. Peaking with the fractured guitar soliloquys of the elegiac “No More Glory,” Old Liquidator offers beautifully bittersweet fairytales for a generation sick of gloom. CP