The Minus 5, Down With Wilco

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 09.23.11 in Reviews
A Wilco-backed R.E.M. side project

Jeff Tweedy’s longtime friendship with Scott McCaughey, ringleader of the R.E.M. side-project the Minus 5, led to McCaughey’s recruitment of Wilco as the backing band for this 2003 disc. The ties run even deeper, actually; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, McCaughey’s primary Minus 5 collaborator, produced an album for Tweedy’s former band, Uncle Tupelo, way back in 1992. Down With Wilco was a welcome low-key breather for Tweedy and company amid the pressures of following up their 2001 breakthrough Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; a spirit of carefree solidarity shines through in the joyful bounce of “The Town That Lost Its Groove Supply” and the sardonically witty “I’m Not Bitter” (in which McCaughey answers the title declaration with the assurance, “Not at all…just a lot”). McCaughey’s writing tends toward the ’60s-pop classicism of the Kinks and the Zombies, and Wilco proves plenty able to relate on that level, while helping him to push the envelope on the sonically adventurous bookend tracks “The Days Of Wine And Booze” and “Dear Employer (The Reason I Quit).”