The first album by Scott McCaughey's post-Young Fresh Fellows collective the Minus Five features R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and the Posies' Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer as the singer/songwriter's bandmates (with guest appearances by half of NRBQ, among others), but it's McCaughey's show all the way. The Ian Hunter lookalike writes all of the songs, with the exception of a swell cover of Nick Lowe's "Basing Street" and "Worse," a co-write with his late friend Jimmy Silva, and his appealingly world-weary vocals dominate the proceedings. A countryish tinge is in evidence on some of Old Liquidator, but the largely acoustic tunes also incorporate a notable Beach Boys influence (especially on Stringfellow and Auer's backing harmonies) and a vaguely psychedelic haziness on some tracks, like the woozy opener "Winter Goes Away." That track also features an odd four-hand piano intro that inexplicably incorporates a snatch of "Hernando's Hideaway"; that experimental spirit is also evident in Buck's contributions to the proceedings. Besides 12-string guitar, he adds dulcimer and bouzouki to several tracks, giving the album some unexpected musical textures. McCaughey's lyrics continue the trend of the last couple of Young Fresh Fellows albums, trading the sly wordplay of his early stuff for a more somber, occasionally even depressed tone. This time, however, the punky pop exuberance of the Fellows is traded for a darker and more adult sound. At times, Old Liquidator has the feel of a particularly gloomy Richard Thompson album. Old Liquidator includes a full EP's worth of unlisted bonus tracks at the end.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason