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coverpic flag US - Washington - Full Moon 246 - 09/16/16

The Minus 5
Of Monkees And Men
Yep Roc Records

Threee years ago I was fortunate enough to see The Minus 5 perform live at Egersund Visefestival in the small coastal town of Egersund in Norway. The festival itself is predominant with folk acts, but used to have a small indie scene curated by Frode Strømstad of I Was a King. He managed to assemble six musicians that would be more or less the core of five different acts. Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, Kurt Bloch, Linda Pitmon and Bill Rieflin performed as a whole or in smaller constellations as Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3, a Peter Buck-led solo set, as a backing band for Robyn Hitchcock (as the Venus 3), the Baseball Project and as The Minus 5. The Minus 5 concert is one of the greatest performances I've seen in the latest years, with two drummers and the energetic and wild guitarplaying of Kurt Bloch backing McCaughey's songs.

2016's Of Monkees and Men differs from earlier recordings by having a more of a lyrical concept than a wholesome musical sound. The lyrics on the album is either a tribute to a person, band or a guitar. Five of the lyrics are related to the Monkees, one for each of the members of the group and one for the songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who wrote the theme from "The Monkees" and "Last Train to Clarksville". The four remaining songs tributes a blue Rickenbacker guitar, alt.country band Richmond Fontaine, American actor Robert Ryan and the closing track "Weymer Never Dies", in which McCaughey honors a dead friend.

The songs are all good as individual songs, but the lack of a wholesome sound or musical idea makes it hard to consider this an album. The feeling that sticks after listening to this album over and over again is that I've been listening to an EP on which McCaughey tributes the Monkees and then there is four bonus tracks that are leftovers from earlier recordings. The nine minute long opening track "Michael Nesmith" captures the essence of Nesmith's soloalbums with "The First National Band", country rock with smooth steelguitar and Peter Buck's mandolin playing a significant part. The song is one of the best songs on the album together with "Robert Ryan is among us" and "Richmond Fontaine". The rest of the songs are quite average compared to McCaughey's usual song standard, which means they are still good (compared to many other songwriters), but the album has no high's, no low's and ends up being average on the verge of boring.

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You may also want to check out our Minus 5 article/review: Harrowing! - A conversation with Scott McCaughey.

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