The Upshot: M5 maestro McCaughey does more than just pay tribute to the Faux Four – he and his pals become ‘em.
BY FRED MILLS
Minus 5 founder Scott McCaughey (er, you may have heard of him; think R.E.M., Young Fresh Fellows, The Baseball Project…) knows his way around a good homage. As if the new Minus 5 album title isn’t tip-off enough, or the fact that he has been known to operate under the nom du rawk of “Scott The Hoople.” (Go HERE to read a review of his recent Spain Capers album for evidence.)
Of Monkees and Men, then, is just that, and then some—not just a random hat-tip to the Faux Four, aka Micky, Peter, Davy, and Mike, what with songtitles that invoke their names: the twangy, mandolin/pedal steel powered “Michael Nesmith” (from a poem that McCaughey’s Texas pal Bucks Burnett penned), the shimmery baroque pop of “Davy Gets the Girl,” the dreamy psychedelia of “Song for Peter Tork,” the thumping, percussion-heavy romp that is “Mickey’s A Cool Drummer.” There’s even an anthemic garage rocker titled after the quartet’s hit-wielding songwriters, “Boyce and Hart”; how can you resist lyrics that go, “AM gave them their chance/ And indeed they had their day/ I guess it wasn’t easy/ But they had a lot of fun/ They made the scene on TV with a genie, a witch and a nun!” The album artwork even mimics a vintage 16 Magazine cover with its cheeky teen-centric graphics. While there are also tips o’ the McCaughey hat to the late hardboiled actor Robert Ryan, beloved Americana band Richmond Fontaine, and a “Blue Rickenbacker,”
McCaughey/Hoople’s double- and triple-tracked vocals here give the songs a Beach Boys-esque luminosity. He’s also joined by a roster of talented pals, among them singer/songwriter Laura Gibson, Peter Buck and Mike Mills from R.E.M. and the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken and Jim Babjak, and the result is a musical summit in which all assembled sound like they’re having a whale of a good time. Indie rock was never so joyous. Hey-hey, we’re the Minus 5!
Incidentally, Of Monkees and Men was originally part of the limited-edition, vinyl only Record Store Day release Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror. Copies ain’t cheap nowadays, so you have no excuse not to scoop this rec up in the here and now.
DOWNLOAD: “Boyce and Hart,” “Davy Gets the Girl,” “Blue Rickenbacker”