Minus 5 Plus R.E.M. 's Peter Buck

McCaughey's Tuatara buddies are part of his Minus 5 thing.

Maybe it's the terminally shitty weather in Washington State that

accounts for the prodigious amount of studio time logged by its musicians. Or

maybe guys like Peter Buck (R.E.M), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows),

Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) and Skerik (Critters Buggin'), all of whom

appear together on the new Tuatara album and the new Mark Eitzel album,

just can't get enough of each other.

McCaughey was so eager to release a

new album by his other off-and-on side band The Minus 5, he started up a new

label just to do it. Called Malt Records, the Hollywood Records-distributed

imprint releases its first effort today, the Minus 5's The Lonesome Death of

Buck McCoy, and guess what? That's right, it features 11 songs co-written

by Buck and McCaughey and instrumental assists from Martin, in addition to

sometimes M5 members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies, Mike McCready

of Pearl Jam, John Keane and Jon Crist of the Dashboard Saviors and Jason Finn,

Dave Dederer and Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of

America.

Under the M5 banner, a revolving-door project whose only constant

member has been McCaughey, joined off and on by Buck, members of NRBQ, the

Walkabouts and the Posies, McCaughey has released two EP's and an album since

1993. Calling his imprint a "low-budget, high-creativity" affair, McCaughey has

chosen a seemingly high-concept concept album as its first release, although

beyond noise about it being a "folk opera about a disgruntled hobo named Buck

McCoy," what it really amounts to is a dozen chewy morsels of fully-realized

pop goodness, heaped with a little country flair and plenty of playfully obtuse

lyrics like "bullhorn lacerated pillar of content/ with an unbeliever's

mausoleum stare" from the sunny romp "Wouldn't Want to Care."

The album is

full of firsts for the Minus 5. Aside from the mournful, feedback-bleeding

cover of John Lennon's "My Mummy's Dead" and an expectedly lo-fi, multi-layered

space jam collaboration with Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard, who supplied

vocals and additional lyrics to "Boeing Spacearium," this is the first M5 album

on which the very hands-on McCaughey has co-written all the tunes. It's also

the first M5 album that feels like one, with strong pop life ditties like the

cheery bubblegum of "Popsycle Shoppe," the power pop downer "Empty Room" and

the creepy acoustic psychedelia of "Spidery Moon," making for a concept record

that's really about, um, pop, actually.

The opening tracks, "The Rest of

the World" and "Cross Every Line," borrow from many of the same wells bands

like Wilco and the Jayhawks are often found hanging around, mixing

guitar-and-piano-driven country rock with Beatles vocals, Big Star wide-eyed

wonder and Gram Parsons song craft.

McCaughey, no stranger to playing with

Buck in a live setting, having played rhythm guitar for R.E.M. on their last

tour, took his Minus 5 circus on the road with the recently-launched (May 1)

triple-threat Mark Eitzel/Tuatara/M5 tour.