Because We Hate You / Let War Against Music Begin
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Audio CD, February 27, 2001
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Because We Hate You / Let War Against Music Begin
Scott McCaughey's two bands here deliver a bargain package of a full-length CD each. Given their enjoyably shambling live shows, the Minus 5 are hardly the first outfit you'd expect to turn in an album as magnificently crafted as Let the War Against Music Begin. McCaughey and a cast including Peter Buck, Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, and Robyn Hitchcock render perfectly wistful widescreen pop loaded with direct lyrics, loving vocal harmonies, vintage electronic-keyboard sounds, and a Spector-esque propulsion. A winner that recalls and betters McCaughey's beloved Beach Boys discs So Tough and Holland, its counterpart finds the Young Fresh Fellows returning to the studio for the first time in several years. Unsurprisingly more haphazard than the Minus 5 record, Because We Hate You nonetheless has its share of lyrical moments ("Worthless," "Summerland") mixed in with the gleeful dork-rock mini-epic "My Drum Set," an amped-up cover of Boyce & Hart's "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite," and the speaks-for-itself "Mamie Dunn, Employee of the Month." --Rickey Wright
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"Because We Hate You" sounds nothing more like mediocre Minus-5 outtakes for the most part. Ironically, the first disc of this 2-disc release (The Minus 5's "Let the war against music begin") actually does a better job of sounding (remotely) like YFF than the YFF disc itself. It's obvious from this release that, ever since going on the road with R.E.M., Scott McCaughey's once highly creative energies with YFF have largely been distilled into bland, unmemorable songs that seem to be typical of the Minus-5 "sound".
This isn't to imply that YFF *ever* had a definitive "sound", of course. That was always one of the wonderful things about them--you never knew what direction they were going next, but you always knew that whatever direction it was, it would be FUN, and CATCHY. "Because We Hate You" satisfies neither of those criteria very well. One could make the argument that musical overindulgence (as displayed on BWHY) falls under the umbrella of "fun", i guess. But YFF seemed to always be about fun and overindulgence, but NOT at the expense of good ideas and catchy songs. Even "Electric Bird Digest", with all of its uncharacteristic--though obviously not accidental--"grunge" (it was 1991, after all--The Year Of Nirvana), had a solid foundation of great, memorable melodies that you could sing along to in the shower. BWHY, on the other hand, is eminently forgettable, even despite half-decent tracks such as "Barky's Spirtual Store" (a much superior alternate version from the one on thier earlier "A Tribute to Music" import LP), and the silly and fun "My Drum Set". This is the first time I've listened to a YFF album where i actually couldn't wait for most of the tracks to end, hoping that the next track would be a gem. No such luck here.
The Minus-5 part of this package is actually much more listenable and enjoyable than the YFF offering...Catchy songs like "Got You" and "You dont mean it" are no-brainer radio-friendly gems. Even the more sullen "Thirsty Bird" and "One Bar at a Time" holds your interest very admirably (the very obvious nod to the Beatles on the latter track notwithstanding). A wonderful guest-vocal appearance by Robyn Hitchcock (on "Your Day Will Come") caps off a disc that basically saves the whole package from being entirely irrelevant to longtime YFF fans.
This is DEFINITELY not a CD that a YFF newbie should listen to. It will definitely turn you off to what is otherwise one of the greatest bands to ever walk the face of the Earth. Start off with "Fab Sounds" or "The Men Who Loved Music" (for "old school", pre-Kurt Bloch YFF), or "This ones for the Ladies" and "Its Low Beat Time" for "new school" YFF. The Minus-5 disc, however, is probably their best ever, ironically enough.
One extra positive note though: The CD packaging and artwork is way cool.
The Minus 5 Disc ("Let the War Against Music Begin") opens with "Great News Around You," which sounds as if it were taken straight out of the Beach Boy's classic "Pet Sounds." "Got You" is another catchy number with a darker meaning behind what initially seems to be bright lyrics. Other highlights include, "You Don't Mean It", "1000 Years Away" and "One Bar At a Time."
For their turn at bat, the Fellows put out an album's worth of tunes not all that far removed from the Minus 5 disc, but a little more amped up. Some favorites include the insanely catchy cover of Boyce & Hart's "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight," the equally infectious "For the Love of a Girl", the dorky but lovable "My Drumset" and "Good Times Rock N Roll." And if that isn't enough to make you buy the album, they throw in a song devoted to a Krispy Kreme waitress.
Both discs feature a number of songs that could appear comfortably on the other, but both also retain their own spirit and unique feel. What really holds them together is the fact that both feature the powerful song writing of Scott McCaughey. This guy has been making music for many years now, and he knows what he's doing. Some musicians churn out a bunch of great songs early in their career only to burn out and release second rate garbage in their middle to late career. Scott McCaughey isn't one of those musicians. He keeps trying new things, but rest assured anything the man touches turns to gold. If some long-time fans of the Fellows are disappointed by this offering, it is probably due to the fact that it is different than McCaughey's early work. And making different music is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it assures that your music won't become boring. But it can also be a bit of a slap in the face to people who've listened to your music for years and want something similar to what attracted them to the music in the first place.
Bearing that in mind, I would recommend this collection to Minus 5 fans over Young Fresh Fellows fans. If you've been listening to some of the other albums McCaughey has made in recent years (particularly 2006's self-titled Minus Five Release), you will enjoy this record because it has a similar 60's pop/rock vibe. If you are expecting the more lo-fi, less elaborately produced sound of the Fellows in the 80s, you may not like what you hear. Of course, most fans of either band has probably already heard this disc so I'm primarily speaking to people just discovering McCaughey and his two bands. And to you I can only say that McCaughey is one of the most under-appreciated musical geniuses of this age.
If you are considering purchasing this, just do it. You can get a used copy for as low as $2.00, and that's for two discs worth of material! Even if you only end up enjoying a few of the more immediate tunes, you can't really go too wrong for that kind of price. Give it a try. You won't regret it.