There are bands, there are solo performers with bands, and then there's the Minus 5. They're not so much a band as an ever-morphing collective, spearheaded by Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and his lieutenant Peter Buck (R.E.M.). This time, the company includes members of the Decemberists, Norfolk & Western, Mendoza Line and Posies, all bringing McCaughey's sardonic story songs to luminous life. There's little of the droll power-pop of the Fellows — the ambiance is closer to the rootsy, ornate lilt of Younger Than Yesterday-era Byrds.
McCaughey's gentle, kind-hearted singing evokes late-'60s Ray Davies, and he writes songs like him too. Killingsworth brims with vignettes rife with vivid detail and trenchant observations, borne upon captivating, low-key, country-rock-flavored melodies. The winsome, tragicomic "Big Beat Up Moon" is an overview of a neighborhood packed with people dis-united by loneliness. "I Would Rather Sacrifice You" is a heartfelt, gently rousing country-gospel song about a sanctimonious Christian soldier ready and willing to destroy the world to save it ("I spread the gospel with my gun"). Killingsworth is an album geared toward two — or more — generations of rock; get a copy for that friend enamored of early American Music Club and Red House Painters and that parent or older sibling who still listens to the Band and '70s Randy Newman. — Mark Keresman