Nicknamed "the gun album" (because a firearm appears on the album's cover and pops up in the lyrics of several of the songs), 2006's The Minus 5 finds Scott McCaughey indulging his passion for British Invasion-era pop stuff (not an uncommon development), with an all-semi-star collection of friends and collaborators helping to put it on tape, including Peter Buck, Jeff Tweedy, Colin Meloy, John Wesley Harding, Ken Stringfellow, Kelly Hogan, and even Morgan Fisher (yeah, the one who was in Mott the Hoople). Despite the wide range of high-priced help (collectively called The Minus 5) McCaughey's songs are the star attraction here, and as usual, the man is one of the underappreciated geniuses of pop songwriting. However, "the gun album" logs in a bit less wit and a little less playfulness than you've come to expect from the former Young Fresh Fellow; while "Aw Shit Man" is good frantic fun and "With a Gun" has a melody to die for, "Rifle Called Goodbye," "Cemetery Row," and "My Life as a Creep" graft a moody undertow to McCaughey's melodic structures, which fare well with the more downbeat tone of the lyrics, which often turn to dashed hopes and indecision. There's also a high-lonesome country accent to "Cigs Coffee Booze" and "Bought a Rope," which hardly breaks the record's mood. But if this is the relatively bummed-out Minus 5 album, it's still full of great songs played with genuine enthusiasm and imagination, and it says a lot about Scott McCaughey that even when the fates have him down, he still bubbles over with life and great music. Let that be a lesson to us all.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming