Minus 5 are a couple of old men having fun on their personal slow treks toward death. Their latest effort Dungeon Golds is essentially a meditation on slowly realizing that you’re no longer the coolest, most attractive, or even most interesting person in the room – and not caring about that at all.
The album is full of references to the sort of music that fueled these very cool dads’ interest in crafting music in the first place; in everything from a title track jokingly entitled “My Generation” to the overt Byrd-ishness of near album nightcap “Hold Down the Fort”.
Maybe McCaughey and co. are just alluding to the fact that rock music recorded nearly 60 years ago still sounds relevant today, or maybe they’re simply stating the mind-blowing fact that those records ever released almost 60 years ago.
“My Generation” immediately jumps into some somehow cryptic/joyous territory, with a chorus of “Born in the ’50s/ Children of the ’60s / Now in our 50s / soon to be 60s” – like McCaughey doesn’t need any reminder that his reflection looks more and more like his father everyday, but he’s dealing with it okay. And these screeching guitars and rhythmic distortion make it clear that he doesn’t intend to stop making the music the way he did when he was a Young Fresh Fellow.
“It’s Magenta, Man!” and “Remain in Lifeboat” (a Talking Heads reference tucked into a song inspired by safety protocol?) might have a bit of that “oh-geez-don’t-embarrass-me-dad” feel for listeners under the age of 40, but that doesn’t mean that the backing music isn’t pretty solid.
Most of the tracks on the album were recorded in the depths of McCoughney’s basement – what some might call his “dungeon,” thus the namesake of the record. Often he had guests in his personal dungeon, guests like Jeff Tweedy, Ian McLagan, Nate Query and Linda Pittman.
This chosen recording style explains some of the more pained aspects of the record – it feels like the band is uncomfortably teetering between a low-fi off-the-cuff sound and one that is agonizingly labored over.
There are shining moments coming from both camps, like the sliced together, intimate feel of “The History You Hate” (again, many lyrics feel directly lifted from the notebooks of an educated, well-read older man, for better or for worse,) and the unfortunately cobbled overworked feel of “Adios Half Soldier”.
“It’s Beautiful Here” and “In the Ground” are fair, serving as wading material, taking the listener into the depths of the record – which, truthfully, may not be the most shining moments on the record but certainly aren’t bad.
In fact, there isn’t a “bad” song in the bunch of 12 that the band has compiled on Dungeon Golds but it’s hard to believe that the final work is truly the most enjoyable sounds to reverberate off of McCoughney’s basement walls. Originally some of the album ran in an extremely limited run (750 copies) for Record Store Day last year.
Dungeon Golds reeks of Record Store Day – it sounds like something that a super fan would hoard away. This doesn’t mean that the tracks are really odd or even deviate much from the overall output from the band, it just means that a fistful of really great songs were paid too much attention over too long a period of time.
Next time, somebody oughtta yank McCoughney out of his basement after a weekend of messing with a couple demos instead of letting him mull over them for weeks and weeks.