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The Young Fresh Fellows / The Minus 5 | Because We Hate You / Let The War Against Music Begin (Mammoth)
Billed as a battle of the bands, complete with a scorecard, these two come packaged together as they show both sides of the shiny coin that is the bright penny called Scott McCaughey. The Fellows have long been part of the Seattle scene and even though they split up many years ago (according to most biographies) they haven't stopped making fine music. The latest fits in with previous releases in catchy pop jollity. The moment Barky's Spiritual Store kicks in your feet are off the ground, your mood several shades lighter and the party never ends. It's fun... make that FUN!!! I know it's frowned upon in the serious world of rock 'n' roll, but relax, these boys are a dab hand at it and they won't let you down. Be it singing about a falling for the flower shop owner, being on tour with the Presidents, the waitress at the Krispy Kreme or a drum kit they frolic like a gleeful kid just let out of school for summer holidays. 'Yes, but can they play' you ask.... Well, these guys have been doing this so long they can play the hind legs off a hyena and still leave it laughing. Don't go thinking it's all sugar sweet though, Summerland is a mellow reflective ditty and Your Truth, Our Lies is a punky rant that sticks its tongue out to Sham 69 while keeping it firmly in side its cheek. The gloriously titled 'The Ballad Of Only You And The Can Prevent Forest Fires' rounds things off in fine style with sumptuous arrangements and luscious harmonies as if to show that they can be serious, at least when it comes to music. Scott, Tad, Jim and Kurt... we love you. The Minus 5 are slightly more serious, after all, some would view these to be 'real' musicians, but you can still see the smiles. After all, how could they get so many great musicians to join the band if it wasn't fun? The membership rules are lax (somewhere along the line I'm a member!) meaning that people can come and go for one song or many and giving a loose feel. The main players this time include Scott, Peter Buck, Barrett Martin, Ken Stringfellow and most everyone who was passing through Sea-Tac airport. Scott shows where his heart lies with the opening, Beatles inspired, 'Great News Around You' which could easily be segued with 'A Day In The Life' for a great DJ moment. From here on in the 60's influence shines, be it the Kinks or the Beach Boys or any of the thousands of obscure bands that only Scott knows about. Like it's Fellows counterpart the record is just plain lovely, McCaughey showing that he's a wonderful ear to melody and sequencing and a dab hand with a pen. Any doubts about his writing can be dispelled with A Thousand Years Away, which has Stringfellow on vocal duty, singing like it was one of his own songs and the beautiful Desperate For Someone. Robyn Hitchcock pops up all over the place, adding his unique vocals and closing the disc with a waffling rant about 'Your Day Will Come' while the band play on. Some of the M5 songs could easily be Fellows and vice versa, but that doesn't negate either record, each stands alone well, but together they are mighty. When the fight does start we can only hope Scott is the commander in chief. The results from this jury are 10/10 for each disc. I demand a rematch.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001