Scott McCaughey's been one busy guy lately. The sometime-R.E.M. sideman, music journalist, and dedicated indie music supporter recently recorded not one, but two
new albums with his full-time bands the Minus 5 and the Young Fresh Fellows. Bundled together as a two-disc set, the 5's Let the War Against Music Begin
and the Fellows' Because We Hate You
pretty much fall together as one piece, with some variations between them. The Minus 5 set is the more musically adventurous and ambitious of the two. It also includes a long list of featured players (unlike the steady quartet setting of the Fellows, the Minus 5 has a revolving line-up). Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Ken Stringfellow (the Posies), Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), Jason Finn (Presidents of the USA), Jon Auer (the Posies), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and Robyn Hitchcock all make notable contributions to Let the War Against Music Begin
Because We Hate You is the more pop-oriented of the two, thereby making it the more satisfying disc. McCaughey's forte is pop -- he's an indie-knighted vet with a winning gift for writing songs with killer hooks. And without having to make room for more than a dozen players, the modest-sized group targets the actual songs, rather than the style of the songs. Both albums ultimately wander, but with 26 songs between them (including a revved-up cover of "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" on the Fellows half), there's at least one strong record here.