The Minus 5
When assembling Dungeon Golds, the Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows. R.E.M., Baseball Project, Tired Pony, Tuatara, etc.) leaned towards songs that have made their way into the band’s recent live sets, with the thought that “it’d be a good time to go out and perform them,” offers the indie pop/rock collective’s captain. Artfully curated, by McCaughey, from the extremely limited edition (750 copies) Record Store Day 2014 vinyl only boxed set, Scott The Hoople In The Dungeon Of Horror, the tracks were recorded primarily in The Dungeon, McCaughey’s basement studio. In the process of compiling these tracks, McCaughey could not resist reworking several of the songs. As a result, the album features six altered, edited or enhanced mixes/versions from those that appeared on the boxed set.
Formed in 1993, McCaughey designed the Minus 5 as a pop collective, featuring a new lineup “for recordings and live appearances that has been completely fluid, dependent on musician availability, whim, opportunity, and provenance,” says McCaughey. “I may have taken more of the music upon myself on the Scott The Hoople sessions, but when it came down to it, I still wanted my friends to have their say, and they were kind enough to do so.” Guests include, Peter Buck, Jeff Tweedy, Ian McLagan, John Moen and Nate Query (The Decemberists), Linda Pitmon, and many others.
Throughout 10 albums, McCaughey has worked the most frequently with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, who was featured on the group’s eponymous debut EP, which was only released through They Might Be Giants’ mail-order record club, Hello Records. By the time they recorded their full-length debut album, Old Liquidator, in 1995, the Minus 5 consisted of McCaughey, Buck, and the Posies’ Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. After releasing Old Liquidator on East Side Digital, the group reconvened in late 1996, to record its Hollywood Records debut, The Lonesome Death of Buck McCoy, which appeared in the spring of 1997.
The same year, McCaughey’s solo album My Chartreuse Opinion was reissued by Hollywood Records as a Minus 5 album, and the Minus 5 and the Young Fresh Fellows faced off on a special double-disc split release, Let the War Against Music Begin/ Because We Hate You. After a changing of the guard at Hollywood Records, the Minus 5 found themselves back in the independent leagues in 2003, with Germany’s Return to Sender label releasing a second volume of songs from the Let the War Against Music Beginsessions called I Don’t Know Who I Am. McCaughey signed to Yep Roc Records for the breakthrough Tweedy/Wilco collaboration Down with Wilco, with the band performing “The Town That Lost Its Groove Supply” on Late Night With David Letterman. A video for the song, animated by the Replacements’ Chris Mars, appeared on a follow-up EP dominated by Down with Wilco outtakes, At the Organ.
Yep Roc then re-issued In Rock, a collection of tunes recorded in a single day in 2000, featuring the Minus 5’s “classic” line-up, McCaughey, Buck, Bill Rieflin, and John Ramberg, as well as guests Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, Chris Ballew of The Presidents of The United States of America, and John Wesley Harding. Buck and McCaughey continued Minus 5 endeavors in between R.E.M. recording and touring, with trips to Spain, Japan and the UK, and the Yep Roc releases The Minus 5 (a/k/a The Gun Album) in 2006 and the folkier Killingsworth, recorded with many of Portland, Oregon’s finest musicians in McCaughey’s current hometown.
R.E.M.’s disbandment in 2011, has led to Peter Buck’s two solo LPs (with McCaughey’s heavy involvement) and the aforementioned Minus 5 boxed set, and, most certainly, more to come.